Team Ulster athletes visit Stormont for official launch of the 2020 Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games
The Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games will take place in Northern Ireland for the first time ever.
At the official launch today Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey MLA was joined by her Ministerial colleagues for Health Minister Robin Swann MLA and Education Minister Peter Weir MLA to wish the 23 Ulster athletes every success for representing Special Olympics Ulster in the Games.
This Special Olympics 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 150 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 which will be 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.
“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.”
Health Minister Robin Swann said: “I’m delighted to be part of the launch today, and it is great for Northern Ireland to be hosting the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games for first time. I wish all the participants the very best of luck and to enjoy taking part in the games.”
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 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.”