More than 3,000 athletes gathered in Soldier Field Tuesday for three days of track and field events at the 44th Special Olympics Games.
Soldier Field was the site of the first Special Olympic Games on July 20, 1968, bringing 1,000 competitors from the United States and Canada. The program has since grown to 180 countries with more than 3.7 million participating athletes worldwide.
Chicago boasts more than 5,000 of those registered athletes, and Illinois has 20,000.
“We are so proud of our Special Olympics athletes,” said Gov. Pat Quinn. “That’s why we will continue to increase community care options for people with disabilities and we will take the necessary steps to protect funding for special education.”
Quinn introduced athletes on Tuesday and called the games "an inspiring event."
"It's one of our great exports in Illinois," he said.
Quinn told reporters the event emphasizes his commitment to create community-based care centers for people with developmental disabilities, allowing them to maintain a more active and independent lifestyle.