NORRISTOWN, Pa. (WTAJ) — Special Olympics Pennsylvania and Penn State University announced that the 2020 Summer Games, scheduled to take place from Thursday, June 11 to Saturday, June 13 in State College, PA, are cancelled due to concerns related to the coronavirus.
In addition, the 10th annual “Be a Fan” Torch Run that precedes Summer Games is canceled this year.
Instead, Special Olympics of Pennsylvania is working with its statewide athlete leaders, PSU, the Summer Games volunteer committee, Law Enforcement Torch Run leaders, and key sponsors to plan a “Virtual Summer Games” that will take place during the same time-frame.
“As we look at a virtual event, we’re trying to engage not only the 2,000 athletes we can normally physically bring to campus, we’re trying to virtually engage all 20,000 athletes all over the state,” said Matthew Aaron, President & CEO of Special Olympics PA.
Summer Games, SOPA’s largest annual statewide competition, typically brings more than 2,000 athletes, 750 coaches, and more than 1,000 enthusiastic volunteers from across the state together on Penn State University’s main campus for 3 days of competition in 8 sports. A dedicated Summer Games volunteer committee works year-round planning for the Games.
“While it is heartbreaking to announce this decision to cancel the Torch Run and Summer Games,” said Matthew Aaron, SOPA’s President and CEO.
“Our hope is to capture the spirit of our athletes and volunteers via the Virtual Summer Games. The athletes of Special Olympics Pennsylvania and our coaches, families, Law Enforcement Torch Run partners, sponsors, and volunteers are an amazing and resilient group. We will come through this crisis stronger and more unified than ever!”
In addition to sports competitions, Summer Games traditionally include a spectacular Opening Ceremonies at Pegula Ice Arena featuring the lighting of the Olympic Cauldron, a Victory Dance and Sport Fest celebration, an “Olympic Village” with fun activities to keep athletes engaged and entertained between competitions, and Healthy Athletes programs. The Healthy Athletes programs provide health services and education to Special Olympics athletes completely free of charge. Health promotion, physical therapy, eye, ear, dental, and podiatry screenings are typically offered.
The “Be a Fan” Torch Run is a 3-day, 150-mile run from Pittsburgh to State College featuring over 500 runners representing more than 50 law enforcement teams that are accompanied or cheered on by local Special Olympics athletes. Energy Transfer is SOPA’s premier “Guardians of the Flame” Law Enforcement Torch Run partner.
“Penn State University and our entire community always look forward to hosting the amazing Special Olympics athletes and their coaches, volunteers and guests each June. We will miss them and their families this year. But, we all look forward to the day when we can welcome everyone back to campus again.” said Eric Barron, President of Penn State University.
This year would have marked the 33rd consecutive year that Penn State University hosted Summer Games. Both organizations are firmly committed to bringing the Summer Games back to State College in 2021.