The 2007 Special Olympics Begins

These are the first Special Olympics Games held internationally.

Oct. 3, 2007 — -- From beginning to end, the show seemed to dazzle everyone in attendance. This opening ceremony rivaled that of any Olympic Games -- expect this is the Special Olympics.

Some 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities have converged in Shanghai, China, to compete in 25 events over the next nine days.

For many of the 400 American athletes at the event, it's their first time out of the country, much less halfway around the world.

Sporting Superstars

Shanghai has rolled out the red carpet for these athletes.

"I like being treated like a celebrity. It's real fun," American Marc Janovics said. "They worship me. It's cool."

Eighty thousand people attended the opening ceremony, including some of China's biggest stars and Chinese President Hu Jintao.

Although these games are completely separate from next summer's Olympics, they are not that different in scale. This is by far the largest opening ceremony a Special Olympics has ever had.

For some, this opening ceremony is a sign of how far the program has come and how much awareness is growing for people with intellectual disabilities, especially in China, which is so often cast in a poor light for its human rights violations.

"Special Olympics really wants to open its door to places that want to learn about people with intellectual disabilities and … China is one of those places. We've been here for 25 years. It's been a slow road, but here we are in 2007, ,and, it's our largest program," Kristen Seckler, a Special Olympics spokeswoman, said.

And attitudes in China are starting to change.

"Being involved with Special Olympics helps me to know the athletes' courage," volunteer Charles Zhang said.

It's the courage to not only accept their disabilities but to compete and win in spite of them.