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Boro welcomes Special Olympics; games start Friday
100208 SPECIAL OLYMPICS SETUP
Tiffany Dollar and other staff of Special Olympics Georgia set up bocci courts at Mill Creek Regional Park Thursday. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

    More than 2,000 athletes and coaches from across Georgia are in Statesboro to compete all weekend in the Special Olympics Fall Games.
    Opening ceremonies are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. tonight at Mill Creek Park, but athletes began competing Friday morning. Athletes are entered in six events — softball, bocce, cycling, golf, and long distance walking and running.
    "Get ready to be inspired," said Georgia Milton-Sheats, CEO of Special Olympics Georgia. "Soon, the athletes will have even more fans in Statesboro as they do their personal best, show joy and courage during competition — the true spirit of Special Olympics."
    With the exception of golf, all of the sporting events will be held at Mill Creek Regional Park all weekend. The Games will conclude Sunday afternoonAll events are free and open to the public, including the Olympic Town midway on Saturday.
    “We had more athletes register for the Fall Games than any ever,” said Wendy Bigham, senior public relations manager for the Atlanta-based organization.
    Special Olympics Georgia provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. More than 22,000 athletes across the state are registered with Special Olympics Georgia, including 3,309 who registered this year.
    Overall, about 3,000 visitors are expected to come to Statesboro for the Games.
    According to Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau director Jaime Riggs said the economic impact of having this many visitors over the weekend is substantial.     “The athletes will come Friday morning and the games will begin at 11 a.m.,” she said. “Most participants will spend Friday and Saturday nights. I expect that a lot of money will be spent by these visitors over the weekend.”
    Statesboro will be the host for the Fall Games for 2009 and 2010, as well.
    "We’ve had tremendous support from Statesboro and are extremely excited about the upcoming weekend,” Milton-Sheats said.