Special Olympics North Carolina kicks off 50th anniversary Summer Games

— Special Olympics North Carolina kicked off the 50th anniversary Summer Games Friday night at Reynolds Coliseum in Raleigh.

“It is so amazing,” said Romas Gabrielli, Special Olympics NC Global Messenger. “From where we started to 50 years (later), it tells me how strong the Special Olympics. It’s been growing throughout the years, and I definitely don’t want that to stop.”

This year’s Summer Games welcomes 1,900 athletes to the Triangle for events during weekend.

Mike Stone, of Greensboro, competed in the first Special Olympics North Carolina in 1968.

“It’s a thrill,” Stone said. “It’s exciting to see some of the athletes growing up.”

Athletes from across the state participated in a parade and the lighting of the cauldron.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper was at the opening ceremony and WRAL‘s Ken Smith served as emcee.

Law enforcement officers carried the Flame of Hope across North Carolina before lighting the cauldron at the opening ceremony.

Two of the day‘s outdoor events, cycling and softball preliminary competitions, had to be canceled because of the heat.