The 2008 Special Olympics Invitational Winter Games, to be held Tuesday, Feb. 25 to 28, in Boise, Tamarack and Sun Valley, are a prelude to the 2009 Special Olympics World Winter Games.
The early event will provide an opportunity for delegations from around the globe to witness the world-class venues and community enthusiasm prior to the World Games, as well as for fans and supporters to rally around the athletes while they are in the neighborhood.
The 2008 games will provide athletes a chance to visit Idaho, many for the first time.
Approximately 365 athletes from 10 countries will compete, compared to the 3,000 athletes from 85 countries who will participate in 2009. The athletes this year will compete in five sports: alpine skiing, floor hockey, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The latter two will be held in Sun Valley.
There are many aspects of these games, as well as the 2009 games, that stand out for 2009 Idaho Special Olympics CEO Chip Fisher, of Ketchum
One is a scarf initiative that has taken off throughout the state, resulting in more than 1,000 hand-knit scarves in the colors of the games, to be given to the athletes.
"They're coming in by the hundreds," Fisher said. "One woman knit 65 of them. The outpouring is unbelievable. We needed 600. We now have over 1,000. This is fun. Talk about a community getting behind something."
Laura Cushing, senior director of logistics and special projects for Special Olympics volunteers, conceived the idea.
"We always do a gift for the games. I thought, is there any way to do something special?" Cushing said. "Something for volunteers who couldn't volunteer or for people who were too young. That was my thought. How do we get people involved and make it special for the athletes?
"The scarves are Delf blue and white with no logos. Each one is unique. They are crocheted and knitted. They have tassels and snowflakes. It makes a connection to the athletes. Each one has a personal note attached. We'll hand them out right before opening ceremonies. It's a touching moment in a chaotic world. People are knitting for next year now."
Fisher said that by the time the entire games wrap up, they will have been the "largest multi-day sporting event in the history in terms of athletes."
"It's 25 percent bigger than the Salt Lake City Olympics. On top of that we have a volunteer for every single athlete."
Schedule of Events in Sun Valley
Tuesday, Feb. 26
Athletes arrive, preliminaries held during the day. Dinner at Sun Valley Inn's Continental Room.
Wednesday, Feb. 27
10 a.m. 3K Finals
11 a.m. 500M Finals
11:45 a.m. 100M Finals 50M Finals (follows 100M)
1:30 p.m. 1K Finals
2:30 p.m. 4x1K Traditional Relay Finals
3:30 p.m. 5K Finals
Wednesday, Feb. 27
8:30 a.m. Athlete arrival Sun Valley golf course
11 a.m. 100M Finals
Noon 25M Finals
1:30 p.m. 400M Finals
2 p.m. 200M Finals
2:45 p.m. 1600M Finals
3:15 p.m. 50M Finals
4:15 p.m. 4x100M Traditional Relay Finals
Dinner Sun Valley Inn's Continental Room
Thursday, Feb. 28
If needed due to postponements from weather-related issues or other Games delays. Otherwise departure date for athletes.
For more information go to www.2009worldgames.org/WorldWinterGames/2008.