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