CHICAGO (CBS) — The Special Olympics is kicking off its 50th anniversary on Thursday, at the opening ceremony of its Spring Games at Soldier Field.

Since its first event at Soldier Field in 1968, the Special Olympics has grown into an international phenomenon, with competitions held in more than 170 countries.

Olympic hockey gold medalist Kendall Coyne, of Palos Heights, was at Soldier Field for the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Spring Games, giving high-fives to some of the more than 4,500 athletes taking part.

Coyne is one of two honorary coaches for this golden anniversary celebration.

The other coach is six-time White Sox All-Star outfielder Harold Baines.

“It’s very inspiring that these kids have disabilities, but they don’t have disabilities. They’re having a great time,” Baines said.

Coyne and Baines said they are honored to lend their names to the longstanding Chicago tradition of supporting the Special Olympics.

“It makes you want to be a better person, be the best person you can be every day. They’re just amazing people, amazing athletes, and it’s just so fun to be around them,” Coyne said.

Competitions in the Spring Games will be held at Dunbar Park from May 7 to May 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. each day. Athletes will compete in more than two dozen track and field events.