SPECIAL SEND OFF FOR TEAM ULSTER ATHLETES

ALL ABOARD:  Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, Phoebe Dalrymple and Stephanie Kennedy are in the driver’s seat on the way to the Limerick Games

ALL ABOARD: Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon, Phoebe Dalrymple and Stephanie Kennedy are in the driver’s seat on the way to the Limerick Games

OVER 200 local athletes have set off for the Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick, getting set to represent Ulster on a national stage.

The strong delegation of 241Team Ulster athletes set off for Limerick this morning (Thursday 12th June), ahead of the Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games Opening Ceremony this evening.

A special send-off took place at Belfast Central Station, where Team Ulster athletes were joined by Lord Mayor of Belfast, Nichola Mallon, representatives of the Law Enforcement Torch Run (LETR) including, Assistant Chief Constable, Will Kerr and local PSNI officers.

Over 100 of the Team Ulster athletes, along with coaches and volunteers will travel together by train to Limerick today, with other groups from across the region travelling on dedicated coaches.

The 2014 Special Olympics Ireland Games take place in Limerick from Thursday 12th June to Sunday 15th June, with over 1,500 athletes from right across Ireland taking part. The event will be one of the largest sporting events in Ireland this year.

Special Olympics Ulster provides sporting opportunities for 2,043 athletes with an intellectual disability in 92 clubs across the region and will have a strong delegation of 241 athletes representing the region at the Games as part of Team Ulster.

Over the course of the four days, athletes will compete in 14 sports, including Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Kayaking, Pitch & Putt and Table Tennis.

Athletes will be supported by 3000 volunteers and 500 coaches, with thousands of spectators expected to turn out to cheer on the athletes in venues at the University of Limerick and other official Games venues across the city.

Shaun Cassidy, regional director, Special Olympics Ulster said: “Special Olympics Ulster supports over 2,000 athletes in Ulster, with year-round activities in 92 clubs across the region. The Limerick Games are set to be one of the biggest sporting events of the year and we are proud to have such a strong delegation of Team Ulster athletes going to the Games this June.

“The Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick will provide a real opportunity for hundreds of local athletes with intellectual disabilities to compete on a national stage. For many of our athletes, this will be their first time competing at this level of competition, having trained and worked hard for many years. To reach this level is a real achievement and we wish the whole team well as they prepare for the Games.”

Assistant Chief Constable, Will Kerr said: “Over 85,000 police officers from 48 countries across the world contribute to Law Enforcement Torch Run efforts annually as Guardians of the Flame, ensuring the delivery of the Special Olympics Flame of Hope to the opening ceremonies of local Special Olympics competitions.

“The Police Service of Northern Ireland, with our colleagues in An Garda Síochána are proud to showcase these athletes, with representatives from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland helping to send the Flame of Hope to the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games 2014.”

The Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games 2014 Opening Ceremony will take place on the evening of Thursday 12th June, with a street parade on O’Connell Street followed by an event in the People’s Park. Three full days competition will follow, with a closing ceremony on Sunday 15th June tying off proceedings, before athletes travel back to their home towns and cities across the Ulster region.

Special Olympics Volunteers join Cathy Davlon and Emma Douglas ( Centre left and right ) PIC: Matt Mackey/PRESSEYE

Special Olympics Volunteers join Cathy Davlon and Emma Douglas ( Centre left and right ) PIC: Matt Mackey/PRESSEYE

The public can keep up to date with the news on the Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games 2013 and Team Ulster’s progress on Twitter, tweet @SO_Ulster and @SOIreland using the hashtag, #SOGames2014. You can also find Special Olympics Ulster on Facebook at Facebook.com/SpecialOlympicsUlster

For further information about Special Olympics Ulster and the Special Olympics Ireland programme, visit www.specialolympics.ie

About Special Olympics Ulster:

241 Ulster athletes will compete at the Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games.

The All-Ireland Special Olympics Games take place every four year. They were last held in Belfast in 2006.

Special Olympics is a charity that provides year-round sports training to athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics was established in Ulster in 1978.

Some 2,043 athletes are registered with Special Olympics Ulster, with plans to recruit 100 new athletes per year for the next four years.

Special Olympics Ulster currently has a network of 92 clubs across Ulster.

Special Olympics Ulster’s work is supported by a network of 5,855 volunteers, with plans to recruit and train 150 new volunteers each year for the next four years.

Special Olympics Ulster currently has 973 coaches active in the programme on an annual basis, with plans to train 100 coaches each year for the next four years.

Special Olympics Ulster offers training and competitive sporting events in 14 sports: Alpine Skiing, Athletics, Aquatics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Kayaking, Pitch & Putt and Table Tennis

Special Olympics Ulster is a year round sports training organisation and is supported by Sport Northern Ireland.

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