PRYOR, OK —
The most exciting sporting event in the state of Oklahoma is hosting its 44th-annual competition this weekend, though you may not have read about it on a sports page before.
Over 4,400 athletes, along with innumerable coaches, friends, parents, supporters and fans will descend on Stillwater tomorrow for the opening ceremony of the 2013 Special Olympics Oklahoma Summer Games.
The Special Olympics are a shining example of goodness in a sometimes dark world of sports. Sports are meant to bring people together, and often professional and amateur sportsmen and women sully athletics with cheating or personal vendettas.
Not the Special Olympics. It’s a common cliche, but every athlete who competes in the Olympics truly is a winner, at least in my book.
I remember going to the Olympics’ opening ceremony in Stillwater a few years back (the Summer Games moved to Stillwater in 1983 and are celebrating their diamond anniversary in the city this year) and being completely blown away. It was a huge spectacle, with horns blowing, people cheering and smiles on everyone’s face. The parade, Barry Switzer on stage, leading everyone in the athletes' oath and just saying Barry Switzer things — it’s hard not to be swept up in how amazing it all is.
Sports are the great equalizer. Most of the athletes competing in the Special Olympics have grown up with varying degrees of disabilities — or what non-Olympians perceive as disabilities. On the field, track, course or court, there are no such things as disabilities.
In sports, everyone has an obstacle to overcome.
That’s why the Special Olympics are exactly that — special. At other sporting events, half of the crowd is rooting against the other half (at the Cotton Bowl in October, it's literally 50-50). At the Special Olympics, everyone is rooting for each other.
Yes, they represent schools, towns and communities (including Mayes County), but what the Special Olympians really represent is what great things humans can accomplish if we work together for one common cause, no matter what name we wear on our chests.
The opening ceremonies begin at 7:30 p.m. tomorrow at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Competition runs from Wednesday to Friday. I strongly encourage you to go, if not this year, sometime in your life. Whether you want to volunteer or donate to a worthy cause, watch some great sports or just go meet some fun and interesting people, the Special Olympics is a great place to be.
Start packing now. You don’t want to miss this.
For more information on Special Olympics Oklahoma, visit www.sook.org.