Twenty-two Southern California Special Olympics athletes are on their way to Nagano, Japan to compete in the 8th Special Olympics Winter World Games. From February 26 through March 5, in many of the same venues used for the 1998 Olympic Winter Games, over 2,500 Special Olympics athletes, representing some 80 countries will compete in floor hockey, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, figure skating, speed skating, snow shoeing and snow boarding. In holding the eighth such event in the 36-year history of Special Olympics, Nagano becomes the first to host the Olympic, Paralympics and Special Olympics Games, as well as the first site in Asia to host any Special Olympics World Games. Embarking from this country are 200 North American Special Olympics athletes and 50 coaches. Known collectively as TEAM USA, they will be joined by over 3,500 Special Olympics Team USA family members and friends. Special Olympics Southern California is sending a delegation of twenty-two winter sports athletes chosen at random from its 32 area programs, and five coaches. Among the athletes from this area are four figure skaters, two speed skaters and a floor hockey team. Worldwide, approximately 2,500 athletes, 650 coaches and official delegates, 10,000 volunteers, 28,000 family members and friends, and 150,000 spectators are expected to be in Japan to celebrate and be a part of the Games. “Just as our Japanese hosts welcomed the world to Nagano in 1998, they graciously now offer their hospitality to the worldwide Special Olympics movement,” said Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver. “Their commitment to inspiring people in Japan and throughout the world to open their minds and accept people with intellectual disabilities serves as a shining example of how to change not only attitudes, but also the world.” Special Olympics Southern California is a non-profit organization that serves over 11,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities in an eleven-county region of Southern California from San Luis Obispo to the Mexican border. Its mission is to provide continuing opportunities for improved health and well-being through participation in year-round sports training and competitions in 23 Olympic-type sports. Athletes range in age from eight to eighty. Special Olympics Southern California is one of 52 accredited Special Olympics entities operating in the United States.For more information about Special Olympics Southern California, please visit www.sosc.org or call 1-800-TEAM CSO.
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