Patriotism and pride will dominate day one of the Special Olympics West Virginia Summer Games in Morgantown when opening ceremonieswith the theme Celebrate USA !return to the West Virginia University Coliseum. The festivities get under way at 8 p.m. Friday, June 7.

Opening events were held at WVU s basketball arena the first two years WVU sponsored the games, but were moved to Mountaineer Field in 2000 to accommodate a fireworks display. Because of the installation of new turf, the stadium is unavailable this year.

“Were actually thrilled to be back in the WVU Coliseum. Its a great and convenient venue for our star athletes, volunteers and all spectators,”said John Corbett, CEO of Special Olympics West Virginia.”We have an All-American red, white and blue ceremony planned that honors our athletes and also pays tribute to this great country and the service men and women who are devoting their lives to protect our freedoms each and every day.”

Organizers say red, white and blue pompoms, streamers and American flags will be handed out to the athletes and spectators.

Approximately 700 special needs athletes from 30 West Virginia counties will parade onto the floor, followed by Special Olympian Robert Moore from Wayne County and officer John Frazier from the Charleston Police Department carrying in the torch signifying the start of the summer games.

The audience will also observe a moment of silence for Staff Sgt. Gene Arden Vance of Morgantown, a former WVU student who was killed May 19 in eastern Afghanistan.

President and CEO of Special Olympics International Tim Shriver, son of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will give a keynote address, and Morgantown entertainer Bobby Nicholas will sing a special tribute.

“There will be red, white and blue everywhere and some other special touches to make the opening ceremonies unforgettable width=100%,”Corbett said.”I hope the whole community turns out to support these fine athletes and to enjoy an evening of family fun. We really want to fill the Coliseum and make this the best opening ever.”

While some of the competition begins Friday afternoon, most contests will be held on Saturday, June 8, and Sunday morning, June 9, at various locations in and around the Coliseum, Shell Building and Natatorium.

When athletes are not competing, an array of activities await them in the popular Olympic Village, located in the parking lot next to the Shell Building. Athletes can rest and recoup by participating in karaoke, bingo, ring toss and more.

The games end Sunday at 11:45 a.m. with a closing ceremony at the WVU Track.

For more information on the games, or to register to be a volunteer, call 1-888-988-2269. Applications also are available on-line Volunteers may also stop by the WVU Shell Building registration area anytime throughout the weekend.