By Sarah Bergen
Thousands of athletes and spectators will flock to New Jersey this summer, and Rider will play a huge part in the 2014 Special Olympics’ USA Games.
The games will play out all over Mercer County, in locations including Rider, Princeton University and The College of New Jersey. The event will kick off on June 15 with an opening ceremony at Prudential Center in Newark.
Rider’s residence halls will house about half of the athletes, who are traveling from all over the country. Also, several games, including men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball, will be played on Rider’s campus. Basketball will take over Alumni Gym and the volleyball competition will be held in the Student Recreation Center.
On June 14, the Cessna Aircraft Co. will drop off Special Olympic athletes every 90 seconds at Mercer County Airport. An estimated 84,500 athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators will travel to Mercer County for the events, which is taking place June 15-20.
Cessna has a history of volunteering to transport the athletes, and will fly in over 800 athletes and coaches from all over the country. This will be the seventh time that the company has volunteered its fuel and resources to the games.
The USA Special Olympic Games are held every four years and include athletes from 52 programs. Adults and children with intellectual disabilities are provided with opportunities to develop confidence and teamwork skills each year.
Competitive sporting events, ceremonies, educational sessions, and entertainment will promote respect for and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities. Some events include an introduction to the games for new athletes, who range from age 2 to 7; boardwalk-themed amusement and activities, and even a youth leadership initiative.
The 2014 Special Olympics will end with a closing ceremony on June 20.
President Mordechai Rozanski is delighted with Rider’s role as host.
“I know I speak on behalf of everyone at the university when I say we are so excited to welcome these extraordinary athletes to our campus in June,” he said. “It will be a remarkable week of celebration, competition and triumph for these individuals who have worked so hard to accomplish their goals of becoming a Special Olympic athlete.”