Special Olympics highlight the spirit of sportsmanship



Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate with the ‘Flame of Hope’ accompanied by Waikato athletes and the New Zealand Police at Garden Place, Hamilton (Facebook Image)

Praneeta Mahajan
12 December 2022

Special Olympics has brought athletes, coaches and volunteers from across the country to Waikato for the New Zealand Special Olympics National Summer Games 2022.

Following a four-year cycle similar to the Olympics and Paralympics, the National Summer Games is managed to get over 1400 athletes and coaches and up to 600 volunteers to compete in four days of competition in 10 sports across 8 venues to Hamilton, Waikato, making it the largest multi-sport event of this year in New Zealand.

Impressive inaugural

The high-spirited festivities started at the Claudelands Event Centre in Hamilton, with athletes from clubs nationwide in attendance representing their teams. They were welcomed by host Jackie Clarke and Special Olympics Athlete Leader Shanae Dean, a Ten-Pin bowling contestant.

The ceremony included the entry of the Flame of Hope accompanied by athletes and representatives of the New Zealand Police.

The torch has travelled from Invercargill to Whangarei, welcomed in Hamilton by Mayor Paula Southgate.

Hamilton City Councillor Anna Casey-Cox honours achievers at a Medal Ceremony (Facebook Image)

The Special Olympic Oaths for Officials, Coaches, and Athletes were read by Dave Beattie, Swimming Technical Director, Anna Waters, Thames Valley Indoor Bowls coach, Melissa Donoghue, Waikato swimmer, and Tamiti Matene, who is competing in Ten Pin Bowling.

Special Olympics Life and Service Awards were also presented at the opening ceremony.

About the National Summer Games

The games comprise a range of sports, including Athletics, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Indoor Bowls, Powerlifting and Swimming.

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Carolyn Young said that the National Summer Games, which are the pinnacle sports event for people with intellectual disabilities, are showing how much they mean to our athletes who have travelled from across the country to compete.

“Organising the Games has been a massive operation, which is understandable given the event has evolved to become one of the biggest sporting competitions in the country since the first event was held in 1985. For many of the athletes, the National Summer Games is one of the highlights of their lives, so we want to make sure they are well looked after and have a great experience,” she said.

More than 1400 athletes and 600 coaches were in Hamilton for the four-day event

An opportunity to reconnect

“Judging by the hugs and laughter we saw as the athletes arrived, the Games are giving our athletes a wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends, make new ones and compete to the very best of their ability. Everyone will return home with a medal and a huge sense of achievement of just having competed on the national stage,” Ms Young said.

Welcoming the event, Ms Southgate said, “The athletes have put in a lot of hard work to be here. They are excited and so am I. I look forward to watching different events across the city and cheering them on.”

With a number of volunteers actively running around and crowds ready to cheer for the athletes, Hamilton was buzzing over the weekend with smiles, making it a perfect way to bring the cheer in and to bring the year to an end for the city.

The games will conclude tonight (12 December 2022) with a closing ceremony and a disco.

Praneeta Mahajan is an Indian Newslink correspondent based in Hamilton.

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