Special Olympics Bows Latin Xmas Initiative

For the first time in its nearly 20 years of existence, the Special Olympics will produce a version of its holiday themed fundraising music series in a language other than English.

For the first time in its nearly 20 years of existence, Special Olympics' "A Very Special Christmas" music series will be produced in a language other than English.

"A Very Special Latin Christmas: Noche de Paz" is planned as a star-studded, two-hour TV special to be shot Oct. 5 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It will air in December nationwide on the Telemundo network and in a host of international markets.

Initial acts confirmed for the show include pop/merengue star Olga Tañón and Mexican rock band Jaguares. A DVD and CD also are expected, but probably not until 2006.

"It's a big departure for us, but we're very confident," says Special Olympics chairman Tim Shriver, whose mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founded the organization in 1968. "The real message is the music will bring power to the most humble, most rejected people in Latin America -- people with disabilities."

Special Olympics focuses on empowering people with disabilities through sports training and competition. The organization estimates that more than 1.5 million people worldwide and nearly 200,000 in Latin America have benefited from its programs.

The "Very Special Christmas" series has featured more than 100 acts and raised more than $60 million for Special Olympics. The original album project, released in 1987, remains the best-selling U.S. title in the series at 2.25 million copies, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

"Noche de Paz" will be produced by Telemundo and Tony Mojena. AEG Live will sponsor and co-promote the event. At deadline, Bank of America had signed on as a sponsor.