Delegations have begun to arrive into Belfast City Airport for the 11th Special Olympics World Summer Games. The Games will showcase the athletic skills, courage and dignity of 7000 athletes with a learning disability from around the world.
The Australian delegation arrived into Belfast City Airport on Monday morning, little the worse for wear despite their 22 hour flight. Any signs of jet-lag were soon left behind as airport staff moved in to distribute some much needed refreshment. The Australian delegation should have numbered 102 people but an administration error in Heathrow forced ten members of the team and most of the delegation's baggage to board a later flight.
"Everyone has been very excited and we're all looking forward to the Games,"
said Rex LANGTHORNE, Chairman, Special Olympics Australia."The athletes are well prepared and are carrying a lot of expectation with them from their friends and family back home. We just make sure that they do their best and enjoy themselves,"
He further commented that like all Australian sports people, Team Australia were taking the Games and their competition seriously and had prepared well for the challenges that lie ahead."It's an opportunity for people to experience emotion. Sport provides them with that opportunity,"
He maintained that there was also a lot of interest in the Games in Australia, adding that he had conducted a number of interviews for both radio and television before leaving. "Australians love hearing about winners, and in the Games everyone is a winner."
Registration went smoothly and then the team, decked out in gold and green and wearing traditional Australian Akubura hats, boarded buses to be taken to their host town, Armagh City. There was little time for the airport staff to relax before the Norwegian delegation swept into the airport to be met by members from their host town, Magherafelt. The 45 strong Norwegian delegation spent their time in the airport dancing before heading off to Magherafelt around.
Athlete Database Goes Live
Information on more than 6,500 athletes participating in the largest sporting event in the world this year, the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, is available on the official website.
The information is being hosted in a specially designed database by World Games official supplier, SAS, the world's largest privately owned global software and services company. Members of the public and the media can learn more about the athletes from each Special Olympics region across the world, including the members of Team Ireland, and can search for an athlete by name, programme or sport.
"We're very proud that SAS technology will help the 2003 World Games communicate with a global audience,"
said Patrick DURKIN, CEO of SAS Ireland. "By making information available about every athlete participating in the Games, we hope to increase the awareness and appreciation for this significant event."
The database was developed by the company for the 1999 Special Olympics World Games in North Carolina, USA.
"The best way to understand the Special Olympics movement is to learn more about the athletes, and that's what the participant database is all about,"
said Mary DAVIS, 2003 World Games CEO. "It makes all that information easily available and tells the true story of the Special Olympics movement. We are truly grateful to SAS for providing this key resource."
The Games and competition will be centred around the greater Dublin area. However, the entire island of Ireland will have an opportunity to play an integral part in the event. All the participating teams will be hosted by local communities in the 'Host Town Programme' from 16 June and the Games take place from 21-29 June.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games 2003 will include Aquatics, Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics, Powerlifting, Roller-skating, Sailing, Table Tennis, Tennis, Team Handball, and Volleyball.
A comprehensive motor activity programme will be offered as part of the Games. (This is a non-competitive programme for athletes who have not yet acquired skills to participate fully in a competitive environment.) There will also be three demonstration sports offered, kayaking, judo and pitch & putt.
Number of Sports: 21
Number of international delegations participating: 166
Volunteers Needed: 30,000
Volunteer Recruitment: Began in January 2001.
Number of Media: 1500 from around the world.
Spectators Expected: 500,000 during Games week.