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NORMAL - A new statue will be dedicated, powerlifters will have their own venue for pumping iron and Bloomington Extreme players will auction the shirts off their backs for the 2007 Special Olympics Illinois Summer Games, which kick off at noon today at the Illinois State athletic complex.

About 3,500 Special Olympians will take part in this weekend's Games. They will compete in six events - aquatics, athletics (track and field), bocce, gymnastics, powerlifting and soccer - having qualified through area or district competitions, with gold-medal winners earning the right to compete at the Summer Games. Competition begins with athletics events at Hancock Stadium.

A statue will be dedicated today at 9:30 a.m. in the family plaza of Tribute Park, adjacent to the Special Olympics Illinois headquarters at 605 E. Willow St. The statue depicts a mother and father admiring their son's first Special Olympics ribbon. Special Olympics officials have designated 2007 as the Year of the Family.

The Bloomington Extreme will wear unique jerseys during its game Saturday night against the Rock River Raptors at U.S. Cellular Coliseum. After the game, the jerseys will be auctioned off, with the proceeds going to support Special Olympics. The Extreme also will donate a portion of ticket sales to Special Olympics Illinois.

The powerlifters will take to Stroud Auditorium at University High School. It will be the first time the competitors will have their own stage, with a similar setup to the national games last year in Ames, Iowa.


Schedule of events

Today

Athletics (track and field): Illinois State track, noon

Aquatics: Horton Pool, 1 p.m.

Bocce: ISU soccer field, 12:30 p.m.

Gymnastics: ISU south gym, 1 p.m.

Powerlifting: University High School's Stroud Auditorium, 1 p.m.

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