21/06/2006

Special Olympics torch arrives in Belfast

The Special Olympics Ireland torch has arrived at Stormont on the eve of the Special Olympics Ireland Games.

The "Flame of Hope' arrived from Templemore in County Tipperary, after beginning it's journey from Cork on Friday, and was carried by a team of PSNI and Garda recruits, six Special Olympics Athletes representing the five Special Olympics Regions in Ireland and representatives from police forces in Europe including England, Holland, Bulgaria and Italy.

The team will have carried the Torch through 50 towns and cities throughout Ireland, travelling on foot, bus, boat and helicopter.

Speaking at a reception in Parliament Buildings to mark the arrival of the Special Olympics Torch in Belfast, Maria Eagle said: “It was an honour and a privilege to accept the ‘Flame of Hope’ together with Eileen Bell MLA on the steps of Parliament Buildings. Those attending the opening ceremony tomorrow evening cannot fail to be impressed when the Torch makes its entrance on the final leg of its journey.”

Paying tribute to the team who had carried the Torch on its journey to Belfast the Minister said: “Over the past five days I believe that you have travelled the length and breadth of the country, from Cork in the South to Rathlin Island in the North. Your endeavours in helping to highlight the Special Olympics Ireland message throughout Ireland have been invaluable and I would like to thank you all for your contribution.

“The Special Olympics Ireland Games in Belfast and the surrounding areas will not only provide the athletes with a great opportunity to show their talents but will give Northern Ireland an opportunity to show that it can host a major sporting event.”

The Minister concluded: “For all those who have been working on this project for some time, now is the final realisation that the Games are about to begin. To all the athletes and coaches participating can I take this opportunity to wish every one of you good luck. I know the Games will be played in the correct spirit and we could all learn from the Special Olympics oath, ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt’.”

The Special Olympics Ireland Games begin tonight with an opening ceremony in the Odyssey Arena, Belfast and finish on Sunday 25 June.

Around 2,000 athletes, including an Ulster Team of 340, supported by 500 coaches will participate in 13 different sports at 11 venues in and around Belfast.

Special Olympics Ireland has recruited 5,500 volunteers to assist with the running of the Games.

(EF/SP)

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