A Year To Go Til Big Games
29 November 2004
A Year To Go Til Big Games
Large international contingent on its way
30 November is an important date in the life of Special Olympics New Zealand, the charitable organisation promoting sporting opportunities to people with intellectual disabilities throughout the country.
The sixth Special Olympics Summer Games start in Christchurch on 30 November 2005, exactly 12 months away. Organisation of the Games has been well under way for several months.
The original estimate of 2000 athletes and coaches attending has already been exceeded, with a particularly strong response from overseas. Eight Asia-Pacific countries have confirmed their participation - Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nippon (Japan), the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.
Not surprisingly, Australia will send the largest team from overseas with an estimated 86 athletes and coaches.
Games director Grant Quinn, founder of the Special Olympics movement in New Zealand 21 years ago, said he was delighted with the response. "This is tremendous news for the organisation and for New Zealand," he said. "These will be the biggest and best games ever run by Special Olympics in New Zealand and will help enormously in raising our profile both locally and internationally."
Christchurch mayor Garry Moore echoed Grant Quinn's comments: "This is a huge event for us and it will give the city a real buzz of excitement and fun. The eyes of the nation and the Asia-Pacific region will be on us and we can't wait for the Games to begin."
Meanwhile, well-known Canterbury personality Adrienne, Lady Stewart has been appointed Games Patron and radio network More FM has made Special Olympics its community project for 2005.
"We are very fortunate to have Lady Stewart aboard - she has great energy and is extremely supportive. She will be a real asset in terms of our communications with the Canterbury community," Grant Quinn said. "More FM has generously agreed to pick up our Sponsor an Athlete programme which is a key fundraiser to help get all the athletes to the Games from around the country. Obviously this will be an expensive exercise and we certainly don't want anyone to miss out on what will be for many the biggest highlight of their lives."
The Special Olympics New Zealand National and Asia Pacific Invitation Games, to give them their full title, will be held from 30 November to 3 December 2005 over
3 competition days. Competition will be offered in 11 sports - track and field, swimming, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, bocce (a variant of petanque), basketball, equestrian, golf, indoor bowls and ten pin bowling. There will also be
3 demonstration sports - badminton, cycling and table tennis.
Notes: Special Olympics New Zealand (SONZ) is a registered charitable organisation which has operated throughout New Zealand since 1983. It is dedicated to providing sports training and competition for children and adults with an intellectual disability. SONZ emphasises participation for individuals at all levels of ability, achieving personal best performances, and regular coaching, training and competition for all athletes. Over 3600 athletes currently participate on a regular basis. SONZ is supported by SKYCITY Auckland Community Trust (SKYCITY has been principal sponsor of SONZ since 1996), SPARC and Provender.
Special Olympics was founded in the US in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. There are more than 150 accredited national programmes world wide. The flagship events for the movement are the international Special Olympics World Games, which are held every two years alternating between summer and winter games. The last summer games were held in Dublin, Ireland, in June 2003. New Zealand athletes brought home 60 medals, including 20 gold.
The next international event in which New Zealand will compete is the World Winter Games to be held in Nagano, Japan, in mid February 2005. New Zealand's largest ever national event, the Special Olympics New Zealand National and Asia-Pacific Invitation Games, will be held in Christchurch in November/December 2005. Some 2000 athletes are expected, including a number from overseas.