Special Olympics athletes countdown to World Summer Games

Date published: 25 February 2019

A reception took place in Belfast today for the Ulster athletes taking part in the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.

DfC Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg with a number of athletes from Special Olympics Ulster
DfC Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg with a number of athletes from Special Olympics Ulster

21 athletes from Special Olympics Ulster will compete across 10 sports at the Games which take place from 14 – 21 March. Supporting the Ulster team will be 15 volunteers. 

This year’s annual funding for Special Olympics Ulster is shared with the Department for Communities (DfC), the Department of Health and the Department of Education and amounts to £610,000.

Speaking at the reception Department for Communities Permanent Secretary Tracy Meharg said:  “The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games provide a unique opportunity for competition at the very highest level for our Special Olympics athletes, giving them the opportunity to compete as well as meet and form new friendships and to enjoy new life experiences.

“The Department continues to support the excellent work that Special OIympics Ulster does to improve the quality of the Sports Programme it offers, to develop and promote opportunities for engagement and involvement of athletes and to continue with its holistic approach to growing its Health and Wellbeing Programme with the athletes. They help promote social inclusivity, to support athlete participation in sport and society, together with the optimisation of the volunteering aspect of local operations.

“I would like to commend those have worked so hard to make the participation of local athletes at the Games a reality. That includes those athletes, coaches, volunteers and supporters who dedicate their time week after week to ensure the Special Olympics flame remains alight.”

Team Ireland will consist of 91 Special Olympics Ireland competitors, which includes the 21 athletes from Special Olympics Ulster.  Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland said:  “2019 is shaping up to be a huge year for our athletes having worked so hard over the past three years to qualify for these Games. The support we receive from the Department for Communities, the Department of Health and the Department of Education through Sport NI is invaluable, in supporting these athletes and thousands of others that participate in the year-round Special Olympics programme in the Ulster region.”

Shaun Cassidy, Regional Director of Special Olympics Ulster added: “It is a great honour for each and every Ulster athlete that has been selected for Team Ireland, having worked so hard over the past three years to qualify for these Games and to compete at international level and represent Team Ireland in Abu Dhabi. As the countdown continues, excitement is mounting, and we would encourage everyone to put their support behind these dedicated athletes.”

Notes to editors: 

  1. Some 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 nations will compete at these Games which will be held between 14 and 21 March. Over 500,000 spectators are expected.
  2. Special Olympics Ireland was founded in 1978. Over the past 33 years the organisation has grown significantly and today has 9,361 athletes participating in 15 sports in 385 Clubs throughout Ireland. The mission of Special Olympics Ireland is "to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with an intellectual disability, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendships with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.”
  3. Special Olympics Ulster currently has 92 Special Olympics Clubs within the region that provide participation in one or more of the following sports: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Kayaking, Table Tennis and Motor Activities Training Programme.
  4. People can join Special Olympics Ulster from the age of 6 years and can take part in competition from the age of 8 years. There is no upper age limit. Competition is not for all participants, so the focus is on participation and helping every athlete achieve their personal best.  Special Olympics Ulster’s programme is heavily dependent on the time, energy, commitment and enthusiasm of volunteers.
  5. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office on 028 9082 3505 or email: press.office@communities-ni.gov.uk. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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