Approximately 700 athletes will parade onto the main floor of the WVU Coliseum at 8 p.m. Friday, June 6, when the Special Olympics Summer Games get under way at official opening ceremonies. WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr. will deliver opening remarks.

“Star Power”is this years theme, and no doubt stars will be shining brightly this night and throughout the weekend as West Virginia University hosts the games in grand fashion for the sixth consecutive year.

“While volunteerism is outstanding throughout the weekend, attendance at our opening ceremony has been disappointing the past few years,”said Eloise Tomei, University coordinator of events.

Tomei also encourages church groups, community organizations and Boy and Girl Scout Troops to attend.

Approximately 700 athletes representing 30 West Virginia counties will participate in this years games, said John Corbett, CEO of Special Olympics West Virginia.

Special Olympian Ricky Boyd of Upshur County, assisted by Gina Stewart, public relations and crime prevention officer with the Morgantown Police Department, will carry in the”Flame of Hope”and light the cauldron signifying the start of the summer games.

Jim Lees, chairman of the board, Special Olympics West Virginia, will give the keynote address and recognize seven athletes and two coaches who will represent West Virginia and the United States June 21-29 in Ireland at the 11th annual Special Olympics World Summer Games. Some 7,000 athletes from 166 international delegations compete in that world event.

Morgantown entertainer Bobby Nicholas, a favorite among the athletes, will once again deliver a special musical tribute to the competitors. His selection this year is”One Shining Moment.”

Mountaineer play-by-play announcer Tony Caridi, who calls the WVU football and basketball games and directs the MetroNews sports department, will serve as master of ceremonies.

“There will be gold, silver and bronze stars everywhere and some other special touches to make the opening ceremonies unforgettable,”Tomei 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 7, and Sunday morning, June 8, at various locations in and around the Coliseum, Shell Building, Natatorium and other Morgantown locations, including the Monongahela River for kayaking and the Mylan Park fields for softball.

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, a petting zoo and more.

The games end Sunday at 11:45 a.m. with a closing ceremony at the WVU Track, where the athletes will bid farewell to the”Flame of Hope”until next years games. Belinda Nicholas Evans will conclude the ceremony by singing”Believe in Yourself.”

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