Crews mow the softball field and build signage towers all in preparation for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games kicking off in New Jersey for the first time tomorrow.
“The Special Olympics is an opportunity for individuals with intellectual disabilities to be able to be the best that they can be through athletics,” said Senior Vice President of Sponsorship for the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games Tom Varga.
Nearly 3,500 athletes from every state will compete in 16 Olympic-style team and individual sports. They’ll be joined by 1,000 coaches, 10,000 volunteers and an estimated 70,000 spectators. Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in 1968 the Special Olympics has become a world-renown event the first USA Games took place in 2006 followed by the 2010 games in Nebreska. It was then Special Olympics New Jersey bid on the games. The Garden State bid committee competed with six other states– 2014 Special Olympics USA Games’s Varga says he thinks New Jersey won for a couple reasons.
“We’re in the media capital of the world which is extremely important for getting our message out, number two in our bid book, we had over 100 letters from corporate partners that said we want the games in NJ and we will support them,” said Varga.
“This event will place an absolute spotlight on that which makes NJ the greatest and that is the human spirit,” said Gov. Chris Christie.
“The state of NJ has treated us with tremendous respect. We have the same task force that was given to the Super Bowl for our games here,” said Varga.
MidJersey Center for Economic Development estimates the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games to generate $116.5 million for the area.
“We are absolutely thrilled that we are able to do that for New Jersey,” Varga.
The 2014 Special Olympics Games will be held here in Mercer County Park and eight other locations including Princeton University and The College of New Jersey. The athletes are expected to arrive tomorrow just in time for Sunday’s opening ceremony in Newark at Prudential Center.
“The opening ceremony is, in my mind going to be the most moving ceremony that you see, when you see the athletes march in, the joy on their faces,” said Varga.
The athletes aren’t alone in preparing for the upcoming games– thousands of volunteers picked up their credentials today. 17 year old JP Madala will be escorting athletes to events.
“I’m really honored to be part of this cause I know how special it is to the athletes so I just want to do my best to help them out,” said Madala.
The Special Olympics USA Games will begin Monday and run through Friday.