BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Missisippi Special Olympics is officially here, bringing with it thousands of excited athletes and volunteers from across the state who are eager for the summer games.
Opening ceremonies for the summer games began this year’s Special Olympics Friday night at Keesler Air Force Base. To kick off opening ceremony, the athletes marched through Keesler Air Force Base’s drill lot with airmen volunteers by their sides.
“We’re going to play sports," said one excited athlete.
Another athlete chimed in, "It’s so much fun, I’m glad to be here”
The athletes said they’re ready to compete for the gold.
“It’s a huge contribution to the community and it helps them out a lot," said volunteer Moses Robinson. “It’s a great thing to be a part of events like this. It’s amazing."
For more than 30 years, Keesler Air Force Base has hosted the special crop of athletes for the summer games.
Karen Brown will participate in the track and field competition on Saturday. “I enjoy it and it’s so much fun to do it and win medals," she said.
Families like the Smiths filled the stands to cheer on their most valuable players. Nona Smith said her daughter Robin came to play bocce, a European sport.
"They roll the balls, sort of like croquet balls and she’s really good at it,” said Smith.
According to organizers, the summer games are a great time for people to connect with one another but for many athletes, the competition levels are high.
“She really wants to have a good time and be with her friends but what she really wants is to win," said Hugh Smith.
Before opening ceremonies, law enforcement officers across Mississippi, carrying a torch and passing it off to the next group of officers in each city and county throughout the state.
The torch was carried all the way to the Gulf Coast ahead of this weekend’s Special Olympics, where it was lit, signaling the start of the Mississippi Special Olympics.
More than 700 athletes are competing this year in the summer games. The games officially begin at 9 a.m. Saturday.