City hosts Special Olympics this weekend

  • Apr. 17, 2013 3:03 p.m.

While it might not feel like spring out there these days the first ever Special Olympics Alberta 2013 Spring Games will be launched in Red Deer this coming weekend.

“We used to have Summer Games but they got so big with 1,200 athletes plus coaches and everybody else that it just became too big for some communities to handle so they’ve split the games,” said Jerry Tennant with Red Deer Special Olympics.

Devon will host the summer games later this year with a different set of sports and athletes for the most part.

In Red Deer close to 800 athletes, coaches, support people and family members will be in the City starting April 19th with the athletes taking part in five and 10-pin bowling, swimming at the Michener Centre pool and basketball at Notre Dame High School, said Tennant.

Normally the host city organizing committee would know about a year and a half in advance of being chosen as the venue but this year was a little different with no bids coming in to host the spring games.

That’s when Red Deer’s army of volunteers stepped up to take on this massive responsibility.

“I think we’ll have around 200 volunteers and the nice thing is the majority of them will do it for the whole weekend and so you don’t have to shift people in and out and train new people on how to run a stop watch or a host or hostess at an event,” said Tennant.

The visitors to Red Deer will be housed at the Harvard Centre in Penhold which is home to the former barracks where some meals will be served but the volunteers will be packing 850 bag lunches for Saturday and Sunday to be eaten at the sports venues.

The athletes will be treated to an opening ceremony Friday night at 7 p.m. at Lindsay Thurber High School, complete with parade of athletes all decked out in their team uniforms, a torch run courtesy of the Law Enforcement Torch run group and a banquet Saturday night.

The athletes compete in groups arranged by level of ability, not by age and Tennant says you will see some very good performances from this group of dedicated athletes who train as hard as anyone to prepare for their sport.

“They’re excited to compete, they’re happy to win and they’re happy when somebody else wins,” he said.