05/02/2020

Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games Launched

Some 23 Ulster athletes will represent Northern Ireland as the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games comes north for the first time ever.

The event was officially launched today by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA and Education Minister Peter Weir MLA.

The event will be a highlight for athletes across Ireland, with many experiencing a first opportunity to compete at a national level. 180 athletes, their coaches, families, officials and 200 volunteers will arrive for the three day Winter Games from Friday 20 to Sunday 22 March 2020. Athletes will compete in two sports; Alpine Skiing and Floorball. Skiing will take place at Craigavon Golf & Ski Centre and Floorball at Lagan Valley Leisureplex.

A Torch Run event will start proceedings with members of the Police Service of NI and An Garda Síochána prior to the Opening Ceremony on the Friday evening.

Sports Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA thanked Special Olympics Ireland and in particular the Ulster Branch for all the hard work they have done in bringing the Games here.

She said: "We are looking forward to welcoming the athletes, their families, the coaches, officials and volunteers from across the island to what I hope will be the best Winter Games yet.
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"Hosting the Winter Games is a marvellous opportunity for everyone to experience at first hand the excellent work of Special Olympics in providing year-round opportunities to take part in different sports on a weekly basis.  Special Olympics plays a very important role in the lives of all its athletes, their families and their communities."

Education Minister Peter Weir added: "I welcome that Northern Ireland has been chosen to host the 2020 Special Olympics Ireland Winter games for the first time.

"The important link between sport and education can never be under-estimated. Special Olympics Ireland offers opportunities for adults and children to compete and participate across multiple sports as well as helping people to achieve their personal best.

"I send my best wishes to all the athletes who will be taking part in the games. Special Olympics changes lives for the better and through team work new friendships will be formed, new skills will be learnt and everyone will be a winner."

Matt English, CEO, Special Olympics Ireland also said: "We truly value the very significant support received over a number of years from the Department of Communities, Department of Education, Department of Health and co-ordinated through Sport NI. The vital funding provided sustains a very strong and continually developing Special Olympics programme in Northern Ireland.

"This is a very exciting time for the Ulster region, as they prepare to host the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games for the first time. It's an important milestone for our local Team Ulster athletes, who are looking forward to competing in their home territory in both Lisburn and Craigavon. We will be counting on lots of home support to give a warm Ulster welcome to athletes from right across Ireland and make these Games a great success and experience for all involved."

(MH/CM)

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