June 2013 sees the 10 Year Anniversary of the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games which took place from 21 – 29 June that year.

It was the largest event to be held in the world that year, the biggest sporting or cultural event to ever take place in Ireland, and the first time a Special Olympics World Games were staged outside of the USA.

2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games, Dublin, Ireland from Special Olympics Ireland on Vimeo.

Special Olympics Ireland: "For two weeks, as a nation we were enthralled and inspired by the determination, bravery, skill and abilities of the Special Olympics athletes who travelled from 168 countries."

  • The staging of the most successful World Summer Games in Special Olympics history
  • 7,000 Special Olympics athletes, accompanied by 2,000 coaches and tens of thousands of family members and friends
  • 30,000 volunteers making the impossible possible as they discovered talents they never knew they had whilst supporting the athletes
  • 168 cities, towns and villages participated in the Host Town Programme by welcoming and hosting athletes from all over the world
  • Opening Ceremony at Croke Park, watched by 80,000+ in Croke Park and a global television audience of many millions
  • 500,000 spectators gave their time to come out and support the athletes at the 26 sports and competition venues throughout the country
  • 2,000 Irish and international media told the world about the extraordinary events of those two weeks in the summer of 2003.

Special Olympics Ireland: "Staging the 2003 Special Olympics World Games opened our eyes to many things. We saw people with intellectual disability in a new light, as individuals who could achieve far more than we ever thought possible. We came to see people with an intellectual disability for what they could achieve rather than what they could not."

In Ireland, the Games have had a lasting impact:

  • There are now 400 Special Olympics clubs (double the number since 2003) offering more sports and competition opportunities for people with an intellectual disability across the country
  • Over 5,500 new athletes participate weekly
  • Our volunteer force has swelled from 2,000 in 2003 to 25,000 active volunteers today
  • Six new sports are now on offer to athletes: 5 a-side Women's Football, Pitch and Putt, Badminton, Bocce, Floorball, Kayaking
  • Thousands of people with an intellectual disability are making friends, learning life skills and gain confidence from participation in Special Olympics.
  • Within months of the 2003 Games Ireland saw legislative change with the introduction of the National Disability Bill 2004 and the Education for Persons with Disabilities Bill 2004.
  • And in the aftermath of the Games there was increased Government funding for services for people with disabilities ensuring that people with a disability were no longer dependent on goodwill or charity for their basic needs.

To celebrate this and the 2003 World Games and what it stood for and also to acknowledge the legacy that still is impacting people’s lives throughout the country Special Olympics Ireland is asking the people of Ireland to remember and celebrate that special time in 2003 by challenging themselves to do something that they had never done before...in the same way people with an intellectual disability are doing every day of their lives in Special Olympics.

2003 World Summer Games - Then and Now from Special Olympics Ireland on Vimeo.

Anniversary Events 22 June 2013

Dublin- South King Street/Grafton Street

Former Dublin GAA player Jason Sherlock will captain a team including broadcaster Ian Dempsey in sports such as table tennis, basketball and football against a selection of Special Olympics athletes from Carmona Cougars Special Olympics Club and Palmerstown Wildcats Special Olympics Club along with members of the public.

Cork – Grand Parade

Cork Football Manager, Conor Counihan, will captain a team of local sport personalities, including Munster player Billy Holland, to compete against local Special Olympics athletes from Owenabue Special Olympics Gymnastics Club, Ballincollig Special Olympics Club and floorball athletes from the Cork area as well as members of the public in a variety of sports including football, floorball and gymnastics.

Galway – Galway Bay Hotel

Galway Hurling Manager, Anthony Cunningham, Connacht rugby player George Naoupu will captain a team to challenge Special Olympics athletes from clubs including Salthill Devon Football Club, Globetrotters Basketball Club, and Tribe Basketball Club, in sports including basketball, football skills, and bocce.

Belfast – City Hall

At a special celebratory event in the grounds of Belfast City Hall 2-3pm, this Saturday (22nd June), former Lions, Trevor Ringland, Dick Milliken, Nigel Carr and Keith Crossan will take on Special Olympics Ulster athletes and members of the public in a number of sports including football, table tennis and basketball.

FYI - The event falls on the same day as contemporaries of the former international rugby stars face the Qantas Wallabies in The British & Irish Lions Tour to Australia 2013.