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L.A. to host 2015 Special Olympics

September 14, 2011 |  1:05 pm

2010 Special Olympics Summer Games in Penn.

Los Angeles will host the 2015 Special Olympics Summer Games, the event's organizers announced Wednesday.

Founded more than 40 years ago by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics is the world's largest athletic competition for the mentally disabled. The games, which will take place at arenas and venues around the region, will bring about 7,000 athletes and 40,000 volunteers, organizers said.

Timothy Shriver, Eunice's son and the chairman of Special Olympics, made the announcement at a news conference at Staples Center. He was joined by his sister, former California first lady Maria Shriver, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Los Angeles County Supervisor Don Knabe and more than two dozen athletes from the Olympics and Special Olympics.

Timothy Shriver said Special Olympics "is not an event, but a movement."

"Beginning today," he said, "Los Angeles is home to our dignity movement."

Eunice Shriver, sister to President John F. Kennedy, was known for her support for the mentally disabled.

She was inspired by her sister, Rosemary, whose own disabilities were kept secret by the family. In 1962, she told the world about Rosemary with the headline: "Hope for Retarded Children."

The first Special Olympic games were held in Chicago in the summer of 1968. In her opening address, Shriver said she wanted the games to prove that, through sports, these "exceptional children" could reach their potential.

The Special Olympics have grown rapidly since then. An estimated 4 million people from 170 countries take part in hundreds of programs throughout the year. Once a largely American organization, now 75% of participants live in other countries, with more living in China and India than anywhere else.

At the winter and summer Games, athletes compete in nearly two dozen events.

In 2015, they will be held at a variety of venues, including Griffith Park, Staples Center and the Home Depot Center in Carson. USC and UCLA will host the athletes in student housing.


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Photo: The 2010 Special Olympics Summer Games in State College, Pa., are kicked off with the traditional torch lighting. Credit: Michelle Bixby / Centre Daily Times