More than 1,000 athletes, several hundred coaches and many more family members have gathered in Billings for one of the year’s biggest sports events.
For the third consecutive year, Billings is privileged to host the Special Olympics Montana State Summer Games, with the help of about 2,000 volunteers and many sponsors.
Teams have traveled from as far away as Anaconda, Big Sandy, the Bitterroot Valley, Malta, Choteau, Missoula and Whitefish. Other athletes are from neighboring communities, including Huntley, Hysham, Ryegate, Colstrip, Carbon County and Hardin. Dozens of adults and dozens more students from Billings will compete this week.
In all 68, teams will participate in two full days of competition that start Wednesday morning. Rocky Mountain College will host soccer. The Billings Exchange Club Par 3 and Lake Hills Golf Course will host golfing. Bowlers will compete at Sunset Lanes. Runners will line up in Daylis Stadium for the 3,000 meter race. Kayakers will paddle through Lake Elmo. Swimmers, gymnasts and weight lifters will be at Montana State University Billings. Horseback riders will be at the Intermountain Equestrian Center. That’s just part of day 1.
All these events are open to the public and free of charge. A Special Olympics tab with a schedule of sports events was included in Sunday’s Billings Gazette.
Now in their third year as co-directors of the Summer Games in Billings, Rick McCann of First Interstate BancSystem and Steve Wahrlich of Best Western Clocktower Inn, told a Gazette reporter that the heartwarming experience of having the athletes in Billings is a huge reward for our community beyond the dollars spent by the visitors.
“I have never seen the love and camaraderie come out of an event like this before,” McCann said.
Everybody is invited to the opening ceremonies that start with a colorful pre-show at 6:30 and the show at 7 p.m. tonight in Rimrock Auto Arena. It will be a celebration unlike any other Billings will see this year. Cheerleaders, dancers, music, Roller Derby Dames and an eclectic mix of other performers and civic boosters will greet the athletes. Gov. Steve Bullock is scheduled to be on hand as honorary head coach. Billings Police Chief Rich St. John is slated to be the torch runner carrying the Flame of Hope to officially start the games.
Come out to MetraPark this evening and experience the pure joy of Special Olympics Montana. Join the fun and be part of something special.