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Special Olympics GB set to return to full-scale competition

This summer, for the first time in almost two and a half years, Special Olympics GB is set to return to full-scale competition with the largest celebration of intellectual disability sport in Great Britain with a brand-new format called The Special Olympics GB Summer Series of Sport.  

Specily Olympics GB athletes in a sport halls racing against each other.

Running between June and September 2022, The Special Olympics GB Summer Series of Sport will be made up of a number of single and multi-sport events. The Special Olympics Summer Series of Sport provides competition in a minimum of 12 sports across Great Britain, including athletics, swimming and basketball. The Summer Series of Sport will offer the opportunity for at least 1,500 Special Olympics GB athletes, with the support of its volunteers, to compete for the first time since February 2020 due to the consequences of COVID-19.

COVID-19 has had a devastating impact on Special Olympics GB athletes who have been disproportionately negatively affected throughout.

A recent major study in America concluded that people with intellectual impairments are 2.75 times as likely to die following a diagnosis of COVID-19, while people with Down Syndrome are 10 times more likely to die from COVID. Both of which shines a stark light on the true cost the global pandemic has had on Special Olympics GB athletes. And that’s without mentioning the psychological and social impact on people with intellectual impairments where heightened anxiety, increased isolation and loneliness are just a few of the knock-on effects for a group of individuals who often find themselves already isolated in their communities.

The Special Olympics GB Summer Series of Sport is a major new format to the organisation which has been developed by a working group of athletes, volunteers and staff from Special Olympics GB National Office. Their aim is to create a sustainable format that offers competition across a wide number of sports in a safe environment while still providing a National Summer Games experience of fun and friendship opportunities.

The Special Olympics GB Summer Series of Sport not only achieves all of that but will also act as a qualification for any athletes interested in being selected to represent Special Olympics GB at The Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin 2023.

Event dates and venues will be released shortly and with approximately 500 coaches, 200 officials and 500 volunteers involved and an expected audience of over 6,000 family and friend supporters.

It's also hoped that this new format will become a regular fixture alongside National Summer Games in the Special Olympics GB calendar moving forward solidifying and enhancing our competition pathway.

Paul Richardson, Chair of Special Olympics GB, said:

“I am absolutely delighted to confirm The Special Olympics GB Summer Series of Sport will be taking place this summer. It will be a celebration like no other! We know how much our athletes have missed taking part in sport, competing and meeting their friends, so to be able to offer this new competition format to the widest possible number of athletes is a huge positive step forward. Covid-19 has had a huge impact on all of us but in particular our athletes. Life was tough for our athletes before the pandemic and Covid-19 has made things even more difficult. When the National Summer Games, which were due to be held in Liverpool were cancelled, we made a commitment to our athletes and volunteers that we would look to offer an alternative and here it is, and I cannot wait to see our athletes back competing on the field of play – exactly where they should be!”

On hearing the news that the Special Olympics Summer Series of Sport was going ahead, Margaret and Ashley, two athletes from Special Olympics City of York Bowls, said:

“It’s all well and good doing our practice, but we need something to focus on and work towards, which is what taking part in competitions is all about. We are both looking forward to the Summer Series of Sport.”

Brian Tolley, volunteer and Chair for Special Olympics West Midlands, who is part of the working group organising the series, said:

“Our athletes and volunteers throughout the region were thrilled to get back to training and re-engaging with their Special Olympics ‘family.’ Everyone is particularly excited at the prospect of a wonderful Summer Series of Sport which will hopefully see us travelling to events throughout the country and the opportunity to join in the tournaments and competitions planned by many different regions.”