CHICAGO (CBS)–It was 50 years ago today when a worldwide movement was born in Chicago.
This weekend Chicago will mark the very special golden anniversary of the Special Olympics, starting with a lighting of an eternal flame and a ceremonial run and torch-lighting.
CBS 2’s Mike Puccinelli on Friday is reporting on all the festivities from the Museum Campus.
Hundreds of onlookers will converge on McFetridge Drive near the campus to watch the lighting ceremony Friday. The flame will burn continuously, symbolizing the eternal nature of the Olympic games.
It was on July 20, 1968 when 1000 athletes from 26 states and Canada gathered at Soldier Field for the first ever Special Olympics.
Now 50 years later, the Special Olympics serves athletes from all 50 U.S. states and 172 countries.
The idea for the Special Olympics came from former Park District gym coach Anne Burke.
Burke, co-founder of the Special Olympics, teamed up with Kennedy family member Eunice Shriver, who was determined to bring Chicago’s event to states across the country–and eventually across international borders.
Today the event has grown into a cherished global phenomenon.
Burke, an Illinois Supreme Court Justice, says she gets chills when she thinks about how big the event has become during the last five decades.
“The goal was simple but revolutionary–to change the way the world viewed people with disabilities,” Burke said. “The psychological concept is that we’re all different. It’s not even disabilities now-it’s differences.”
Today’s festivities include a torch run from 39th St. beach starting at 10 a.m. The lighting of the eternal flame starts at 12:15 p.m., and the torch-lighting happens at 1 p.m.