Special Olympics Returns to Berkeley

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday June 06, 2008 - 09:39:00 AM

It’s time for bocce ball once again. And some volleyball, swimming and tennis as well. 

UC Berkeley is all set to host the 2008 Special Olympics Summer Games this weekend, which are expected to draw more than 900 athletes, 300 coaches and 1,300 volunteers from all over Northern California. 

Special Olympics Northern California is a free year-round sports training and competition program for children and adults with developmental disabilities. The events, presented by AT&T, are free to the public.  

UC Berkeley hosted the first Special Olympics Summer Games in Northern California in 1995.  

They were relocated to Stockton two years later while the aquatic sports complex and Haas Pavilion underwent renovation.  

Special Olympics started in the early 1960s when Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp for people with developmental disabilities at her home in Rockville, Md.  

The first International Special Olympics Games were held in 1968 at Soldier Field, Chicago with 1,000 athletes with developmental disabilities from 26 states and Canada.  

Today, Special Olympics has chapters all over the nation and in more than 140 countries, serving more than one million Special Olympics athletes. 

This weekend’s event will kick off with country vocalist Collin Raye and world-renowned performance artist David Garibaldi performing at Haas Pavilion Friday during the opening ceremonies, which will be followed by a two-day competition where athletes will vie for gold in aquatics, track and field, bocce, tennis and volleyball. 

Sacramento native Garibaldi will raise money for the event by creating his signature six-foot tall paintings of pop icons. 

“Special Olympics has really become one of my favorite causes,” said Garibaldi. “You might say I have become quite a fan, which is easy to do when you experience the determination, hope and passion of Special Olympic athletes. It is personally rewarding for me to donate my time and paintings on behalf of individuals with developmental disabilities.”  

Friday night’s celebrations will also include the traditional athletes’ parade, appearances by new UC Berkeley men’s basketball coach Mike Montgomery, and the lighting of the Special Olympics Cauldron, which signals the beginning of the games. 

More than 500 law enforcement officials from federal, military, state, county and local agencies have been carrying the “Flame of Hope” on a Special Olympics torch run through different cities in Northern California since May 30, and the journey will end at the Olympic Village in Haas Pavilion Friday. 

Competition is scheduled to continue from 9 a.m.- 4 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. on Sunday 

For more information visit: www.SONC.org/summergames  



Friday, June 8  

2:30-6:30 p.m. Final leg of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (Emeryville to Berkeley) 


7:30 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Opening Ceremonies, presented by AT&T, at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


Saturday, June 9 

9 a.m.-5 p.m. Track & Field at UC Berkeley (Edwards Stadium) 


9 a.m.-3p.m. Bocce at Martinez Waterfront Park - Bocce Courts 


9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tennis at UC Berkeley (Hellman Courts) 


9 a.m.-4 p.m. Aquatics at UC Berkeley (Spieker Aquatics Center) 


9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Volleyball at UC Berkeley (Field House in RSF) 


noon-9 p.m. Olympic Village at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


Sunday, June 10 

8 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Track & Field at UC Berkeley (Edwards Stadium) 


9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Tennis at UC Berkeley (Hellman Courts) 


9 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Bocce at Martinez Waterfront Park—Bocce Courts 


9 a.m.-2 p.m. Volleyball at UC Berkeley (Field House in RSF) 


9 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Aquatics at UC Berkeley (Spieker Aquatics Center) 


10 a.m.-1 p.m. Olympic Village at UC Berkeley (Haas Pavilion) 


2:30 p.m. Summer Games Conclude