KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It's a tough loss for Special Olympics Kansas after canceling the 2021 Summer Games for the second straight year due to COVID-19 concerns.
“It was a hard decision to make, but it was the right one to make," John Lair, Special Olympics Kansas president and CEO, said.
Before the pandemic, the Summer Games brought thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators together over a three-day span.
“For our state games in Wichita, which is our biggest games, we usually have about 3,100 athletes," Lair said, "and we also have with family members and everyone involved, it’s about 25,000 people coming into Wichita."
The overnight stay in Wichita played a big role in the cancellation for Kansas. But Special Olympics Missouri leaders are doing what they can to work around that and keep the games on schedule.
“To combat the overnights and things like that, we’ve gone to a single-day event, so we’re going to try and do everything in one day," said Tim Schuster, Special Olympics Missouri director of sports and training.
Planning for the single-day event has taken more than six months, according to Schuster.
“If [COVID-19 cases] were to spike between now and June, we’ve got a plan in place to go to an entirely different community and, really, a third community after that," Schuster said. "So that’s on top of virtual stuff, too. We really are planning three to four events at the same time to get through one."
Special Olympics Missouri athlete Allen Tobin has been competing for more than 20 years. He told 41 Action News he's excited to compete in person.
“I like doing the Zoom thing, but it’s still not the same thing as seeing them in person," Tobin said.
Each week, Special Olympics hosts virtual events for athletes to keep them connected and active.
While Missouri plans for its state Summer Games, Kansas will focus on hosting in-person events on a regional level.