Special Olympics summer games won't be June 12-14

Tribune-Star file/Austen Leake Special Olympics athletes and the other participants in the June 2019 Run Unified Relay exchange high fives after the race's conclusion at Gibson Track and Field Complex in Terre Haute. The Indiana Special Olympics summer games set for June 12-14 in Terre Haute have been delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizers are hoping for a chance to conduct a summer games in late July or early August 2020. 

The 2020 Indiana Special Olympic summer games will not be held on June 12-14 in Terre Haute, said Special Olympics Indiana CEO/President Jeff Mohler.

Special Olympics Indiana on Monday suspended all practices, competitions, and events through May 31.

"We are in a wait-and-see [mindset], and have contacted both Indiana State University and Rose-Hulman [Institute of Technology] to see if there are dates available later in July or early August where we can potentially do something," Mohler said

"It is evident to us, based upon directives that we have received from our international office, and information from the CDC and the World Health Organization, that people with intellectual disabilities are adversely affected by the coronavirus more so than the general population," Mohler said. "So, we have to be extremely careful with our athletes."

Additionally, Special Olympics Indiana does not want to put volunteers at any risk, Mohler said.

With practices and events suspended through May, it would be too difficult to schedule events that would lead to a Special Olympics.

If an event is held at a later date, it will likely not be at the same level as the usual Special Olympics summer games.

"We still want our athletes to compete, but will it be an official summer games like we are used to? Probably not," Mohler said. "But I think the most important thing that we can do as an organization is to get our athletes back in action as safely as possible."

Mohler said there is a "small window" in late July and early August for the summer games before it impacts the organization's fall season.

No other site in the state is under consideration, Mohler said.

"Special Olympics summer games belong in Terre Haute. And, really, if we can't do it in Terre Haute, we don't want to do them," he said.

This year marks the 51st year for Special Olympics Indiana's summer games.

"The silver lining in this is that it did not come during our 50th anniversary last year, which was held with pomp and circumstance. It is too bad for the 51st year, but at least the golden anniversary was not impacted," Mohler said.

David Patterson, executive director of the Terre Haute Convention & Visitors Bureau, said not having the event in June "is disappointing, but nobody is more disappointed than the athletes and coaches, yet we have to err on the side of safety in terms of having a lot of folks in a small area. 

"It is another significant hit to the local tourism industry, as everything is impacted," from gasoline stations to restaurants and hotels. "It is unprecedented."

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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