Famous Northern Ireland sports stars including former British and Irish Lion Trevor Ringland, Glentoran goalkeeper, Elliott Morris joined Ministers and MLAs at Parliament buildings on Monday 27th January to show their support to hundreds of local athletes that are preparing to compete at this year’s Special Olympics All-Ireland Games in Limerick.
To mark the official launch of Team Ulster the local sporting stars and Special Olympics Ulster athletes, volunteers and supporters joined ministers, MLAs and NI Assembly staff at Parliament Buildings to cycle, run and walk a cumulative 500 miles – representing the return journey Team Ulster athletes will make to the 2014 Special Olympics Limerick Games.
Deputy First Minister, Martin McGuinness, Sports Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, Health Minister, Edwin Poots, Education Minister, John O’Dowd, Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan, Steven Agnew (Green Party), Joanne Dobson (UUP) and Colum Eastwood (SDLP) were amongst the many politicians that turned out to support the event.
In addition to leading local politicians, Special Olympics Ulster’s novel ‘Stormont Challenge’ saw volunteers drop into Parliament Buildings throughout the day between 10am and 4pm to clock up miles on their choice of either treadmill or exercise bike in Room 115 – sponsored by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) – to make their contribution to the overall mileage target of 500 miles.
Commenting at the launch of Team Ulster, Shaun Cassidy, regional director, Special Olympics Ulster said:
“We are delighted with the number of people that have descended upon Stormont today to show their support.
For many of our athletes in the Ulster region, the Special Olympics Ireland Limerick Games will be the first time they have competed on a national level and this is a fantastic achievement.
“It is amazing that so many Special Olympics Ulster supporters could gather today alongside our local government ministers and sporting heroes and I would like to thank everyone for their valued support in helping to provide our athletes with a fantastic launch on their road to the Games and as they prepare to compete on a national stage.”
The 2014 Special Olympics Limerick Games will take place over four days from Thursday 12 June to Sunday 15 June 2014. In what will be one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland this year, 1,500 Special Olympics athletes from throughout the island of Ireland will travel to Limerick. They will be accompanied by 500 coaches and official delegates as well as a contingent of over 3,000 family members. The Games will be supported by a team of 3,000 volunteers who will be recruited over the coming months.
The Limerick Games represent the third year in the four-year Special Olympics competition cycle, with the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games taking place next year in Los Angeles.
Locally, the Special Olympics programme is delivered through sports charity, Special Olympics Ulster, supporting over 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities in 98 clubs throughout the region.
For further information on how you can support Team Ulster on the road to the 2014 Limerick Games visit www.specialolympics.ie/ulster or call 028 9023 9023. Special Olympics Ulster is funded by Sport NI.