The installation will be welcoming special athletes from across South Carolina for the 50th consecutive year Friday through Sunday as the state kicks off the S.C. Special Olympics Summer Games on Fort Jackson.

The games officially kick off Friday at 7 p.m. when Maj. Gen. Pete Johnson and Special Olympians light the cauldron at the Solomon Center following a run carrying the torch from the S.C. State House.

"Having such a long standing partnership with Fort Jackson is really important to the success of State Summer Games," said Leigh Lowery, communications director for the Special Olympics of South Carolina. "For 50 years the Fort has hosted Special Olympics' South Carolina State Summer Games - including the very first summer competition in 1968."

After the cauldron is lit, the 1,159 athletes, coaches and their families will attend a raucous ceremony cheered on hundreds of Fort Jackson trainees.

Fort Jackson will host all the sporting events except track and field taking place at Blythewood High School and gymnastics being held in Irmo, South Carolina. Third Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment will transform into Olympic village for the length of the games. Once the athletes finish competing they will gather in the Solomon Center for a closing celebration.

According to its website, the Special Olympics' mission is to provide children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports.

"We look back on the past 50 years and see how far the world has come in creating opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities but it's also a time where we look forward to our future," Lowery said.

Special Olympics has blossomed to a global event with games held in 170 countries, she said.

"Special Olympics has created a global movement for inclusion and social change through the power of sport," she added. "We see perfect examples of that right here in our backyard with State Summer Games.

Anyone looking to get involved with the Special Olympics whether they want to become a coach, partner or to volunteer locally can visit for more information.