— -- The 2015 Special Olympics World Games, kicking off this weekend in Los Angeles, will be the largest sporting and humanitarian event on the planet this year, with 7,000 extraordinary athletes competing.
Robin Roberts, co-anchor of ABC's "Good Morning America,” is hosting the opening ceremony Saturday night. She sat down with Maria Shriver, her brother, Tim Shriver, and some of those incredible athletes to talk about the games’ humble beginnings and its remarkable, nearly five-decade evolution.
In 1962, Maria Shriver’s mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, opened a summer camp for children with intellectual disabilities right in her own backyard, which can be seen in Maria Shriver’s new ESPN documentary, “Brave in the Attempt.”
“This population of people really needed something like the Special Olympics and they needed a champion like Mommy who didn’t take no for an answer, who had a vision,” Shriver told Roberts about her mother’s legacy. “Mothers came to her and said, ‘We have nowhere for our children to go in the summer. No camp will accept our kids. No school will accept our kids.’ And she’s like, ‘Bring them here.’”
Just six years later, the very first Special Olympics World Games were held at Chicago’s Soldier Field, with Eunice Shriver center stage at the opening ceremony.
“I think she felt that if she showed that people with intellectual disabilities could compete against you on the playing field, they could run better than you, do gymnastics, you would have to adjust what you thought people with intellectual disabilities were capable of,” Maria Shriver, 59, said.
Tim Shriver said his later mother is never far away.
“Being around the athletes of Special Olympics, I feel like I get to see my mom in some ways every day,” he said. “I get to be reminded why she believed in them so much, why she fought so hard, why she trusted sports to be a revolutionary tool.”
It’s a tool for athletes like 31-year-old Chevi Peters, of Pittsburgh, Kansas. At just 114 pounds, he can deadlift two and a half times his body weight.
“This is where I belong,” said Peters.
It’s that incredible strength that defines these competitors, reminding everyone what it really means to be an athlete.