Capital to host 2017 Special Olympics

Speicial Olympian Michael Holdsworth is thrilled Wellington has been chosen to host the National Summer Games in 2017.

Holdsworth, a swimmer, said it would be fantastic to have the event in his home town.

"It's as good as it gets. I've been to six national games now, and the potential to swim here is exciting."

The games are New Zealand's biggest event for people with learning disabilities. More than 1700 athletes, 500 coaches and 1000 volunteers will descend on the city. It will be the first time Wellington has hosted them.

Adrian Gordon, who competes in basketball, athletics, swimming and tenpin bowling, was overjoyed at the announcement, made yesterday by Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown and Special Olympics New Zealand chief executive Kathy Gibson.

He won a silver and a bronze medal in athletics at the Trans-Tasman Special Olympics event in Cairns last year. Mother Brenda Gordon said he relished the opportunities sports gave him.

"It's a fantastic experience. Wellington is a fantastic place to host something like this."

The National Games are held every four years and feature teams from Special Olympics clubs across the country. This year's games will be held in Dunedin in November.

In 2017, athletes will compete in 10 sports - swimming, athletics, basketball, boccie (a variety of petanque), equestrian, football, golf, indoor bowls, powerlifting, and tenpin bowling - with events happening across the city, including the ASB Sports Centre and the Newtown athletics track.

Ms Wade-Brown said the games would contribute $1.5 million to the city's economy, based on the impact of previous games in other cities.

"The more important thing is that our capital welcomes people of all abilities," she said.

City events manager Warwick Dent said the council would provide a cash sponsorship to the games, alongside subsidised rates for use of venues, and help with marketing and publicity.

The sponsorship would come from the council events development fund. He would not reveal the exact amount to be committed, saying it was commercially sensitive.

Ms Gibson said the games had a budget of $1.6m and her organisation wanted 1000 volunteers to help run them.

The Dominion Post