Preparations Underway for Special Olympics — Ireland 2003

Special Olympics Gold medal winner Charles Whelan with Pat Fitzgerald (left) and Bob Hawkins (right), Chief Operating Officer with Special Olympics.

By Irish America Staff
December / January 2003

It is a logistical challenge, the likes of which Ireland has never seen before. Over a quarter of a million lunches will have to be made, 2,000 interpreters have to be found to speak more than 50 languages, accommodation has to be found for some 40,000 people, but with just over 200 days to go to the 2003 Special Olympics summer games, organizers say that preparations are already at an advanced stage.

All around the country courses are being run in Japanese and Bengali, Portuguese and Cantonese as host villages and towns prepare to welcome teams from all over the world.

Over 30,000 volunteers are needed to make the event a success, but communities around Ireland are rising to the challenge. Thousands of people have already signed up to help out at the games. Carpenters, car park attendants, journalists and tea makers are only some volunteers needed.

The teams will fly into Dublin, Belfast and Shannon in mid-June, where representatives from their host towns will meet them. They will then travel onwards to the host towns for four days rest, acclimatization and entertainment, before heading to Dublin for the nine days of the games.

The competitions will include aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce (a type of bowls), bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, golf, gymnastics, kayaking, pitch and putt, powerlifting, sailing, table tennis, tennis, team handball, volleyball and judo.

Where they will stay has already been decided. Each of the host towns has been paired off with a different country. Zambia has been twinned with Cootehill, Kilmore Quay has been paired with the West African country of Guinea. In all, 168 towns and villages are participating in the project.

Ireland will be the first country outside the U.S. to ever host the summer games, which were founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, in 1968.

The games will be the largest sporting event in the world next year, and are certainly the largest sporting event ever staged in Ireland.

The opening and closing ceremonies, which will be held in Dublin’s Croke Park, are expected to attract 80,000 spectators from over 160 countries.

The cost of staging the games in Ireland is Euro30.4 million, over half of which has already been raised. ♦

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