Australia wins bid to host 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games

March 14, 2012

Newcastle to welcome 1,700 athletes on a journey to achieve their personal best

SOAP Games 3

Special Olympics Australia to host the 2013 Asia Pacific Regional Games in Newcastle. Athletes and dignitaries pictured at the Opera House after today's announcement. Photo: Peter Muhlbock / Special Olympics Australia

First Asia Pacific Games for the region

Sydney, 14th March – The inaugural Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games for athletes with an intellectual disability will be held in Australia in December 2013, following today’s announcement that Newcastle has secured the winning bid against strong competition from cities in India and Malaysia.

In less than 22 months, Australia will welcome more than 1,700 Special Olympics athletes, 600 coaches, 4,000 volunteers, and approximately 200,000 spectators from 25 nations across the Asia Pacific region, who will compete in a range of Olympic-style sports.

The announcement was made today at a press conference by Her Excellency, Ms Quentin Bryce AC CVO, Governor-General of the Commonwealth of Australia at the iconic Sydney Opera House, following the decision by the Special Olympics International board of directors.

“The Special Olympics movement is very close to my heart. I am very proud to be Patron of this national charity and delighted that Australia will host the Asia-Pacific Games.

“I hope the Games will build a platform of awareness and support for people with an intellectual disability and I urge all Australians to support athletes along their journey to the Games and beyond,” Ms Bryce said.

Other attendees at the launch included NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell, the Hon. Graham Annesley MP, NSW Minister for Sport and Recreation, the Hon. Andrew Constance MP, NSW Minister for Ageing, Minister for Disability Services, the Hon. Michael Gallacher MP, Minister for Police and Emergency Services, Minister for the Hunter and Patron of the 2012 Special Olympics Junior National Games, Newcastle, the NSW Police Commissioner and Patron of NSW Law Enforcement Torch Run Andrew Scipione, as well as local Special Olympics athletes.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics is the largest grassroots sport and humanitarian organisation in the world, having grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.7 million in over 185 countries in all regions of the world.

Gill Stapleton, CEO, Special Olympics Australia says the win is a great opportunity for Special Olympics athletes to share their successes and talents with members of the broader community. “A Games of such magnitude is just reward for the athletes and volunteers who give their best at weekly sports training. “This is a great opportunity for them to share their talents with the wider community. I can't wait to see athletes from across Asia Pacific doing their best and experiencing the thrill of competition.

“The Games will be a spectacle of sport, pride, courage and joy that should not be missed, because when Special Olympics athletes are united in competition the results are truly inspiring,” she said.

The Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games will provide a unique opportunity to support local athletes from 25 countries including Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Nepal, Japan and New Zealand to access sport, a supportive community, and the opportunity to achieve their personal best.

Steve Robson, Special Olympics Athlete and Ambassador, comments on the Newcastle win: “I'm really excited that the Asia Pacific Games are coming to my local area. Special Olympics has given me so many opportunities to enjoy the thrill of competition.

“There's nothing better than training hard and then competing in front of my family, friends and supporters to show them what I can do.

“Special Olympics has allowed me to achieve things I never thought possible, both on and off the sporting field.”

Hosting the inaugural Asia Pacific Games provides a unique opportunity to lift the awareness and profile of the Special Olympics movement in Australia. It also directly supports Special Olympics Australia’s goal to increase its reach and significantly build the number of people with an intellectual disability participating in sport and thereby transforming their lives.

For images, please visit Special Olympics Australia's Flickr page.
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Key statistics

  • People with an intellectual disability represents 3 per cent of the global population.
  • In Australia, it is estimated that there are 500,000 people with an intellectual disability.
  • There are 950,000 registered Special Olympic athletes in the Special Olympics Asia Pacific region, representing the fastest growing area in the world in terms of athletes in competition.

About the 2013 Special Olympics Asia Pacific Games

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) identifies intellectual disability (ID) as the largest disability population in the world.  
  • Dates of games: 30 November – 7 December, 2013
  • Participating countries include: Afghanistan; Australia; Bangladesh; Bhutan; Brunei; Cambodia; India; Indonesia; Laos; Malaysia; Maldives; Myanmar; Nepal; New Zealand; Japan; Pakistan; Philippines; Samoa; Samoa USA; Singapore; Sri Lanka; Thailand; Timor Leste; Tonga; Vietnam
  • Sports to be conducted during the Games include: Athletics; Bocce, Bowling, Basketball, Football, Badminton, Table Tennis and Aquatics.

About Special Olympics Australia

  • Special Olympics Australia is the not-for-profit organisation that transforms the lives of people with an intellectual disability through sport.
  • Each week, thousands of dedicated volunteers provide quality sports training to more than 6000 athletes in over 250 sports clubs across metropolitan and rural Australia. Training is provided in a range of sports and all skill levels are catered for.
  • Outside of weekly training, Special Olympics also host regular events and competitions. These range from come and try days and local sports carnivals through to regional, state, national and international competition.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics is the largest sport and humanitarian event in the world, having grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 3.75 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world.

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