Special Olympics athletes set to make history in Los Angeles

EXPOSITION PARK, LOS ANGELES -- Eunice Kennedy Shriver opened the first ever Special Olympics in 1968, which featured 1,000 athletes at Chicago's Soldier Field.

Shriver's inspiration was her sister Rosemary, who had intellectual disabilities.

"That was my mother's vision, to change the world through sports for people with intellectual disabilities," said Shriver's daughter, Maria Shriver.

In 1973, Los Angeles hosted the Special Olympics World Games for the first time with 2,500 athletes at UCLA.

"You will jump and throw farther than most of us in the stands ever will dream of doing," Eunice Shriver said.

Going forward gold medalists from the traditional Olympics began lending their support and the Special Olympics were internationalized.

"You are teaching all nations the healing power of the human spirit," Eunice Shriver said.

In 2003, the Summer Games moved outside the United States for the first time with 6,500 athletes in Dublin. The games haven't been held in the U.S. since, but, in 2011, L.A. submitted a bid to change that.

"The theme of our bid was in a city full of movie stars and All-Stars the athletes would be the stars of the show, that there's no greater global stage than Los Angeles," said Patrick McClenahan, president and chief executive of LA2015.

L.A. won its 2015 bid, in part by arguing that the city's infrastructure is Olympic ready. Now, the L.A. Coliseum that hosted the traditional Olympics in 1932 and the Summer Games in 1984 is ready for its biggest show in decades.

"I'm excited to show L.A. to the world and to have the world come to L.A.," Mayor Eric Garcetti said.

There will be 25 competitions around town, including football at UCLA, swimming at USC, bowling at L.A. Live, horse-riding in Burbank, golfing in Griffith Park and sailing in Long Beach. All the competitions are free to attend.

"I hope every Angeleno watching this goes out and sees one of these events. It will fill your heart with joy and it will change your life," Garcetti said.

As Maria Shriver now carries the torch into her home city, she's thinking of all her mom's hard work.

"She had this vision so many years ago so it's very meaningful to live in this city and I hope it's come together in the spirit of its name, the City of Angels," Maria Shriver said.
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