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Craigavon to host Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games this month

The Ireland Winter Games will be a highlight for Special Olympics athletes right across Ireland this year, having been postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19

For the first time ever, Northern Ireland will host the Special Olympics Ireland Winter Games.

They’re due to be held in Craigavon and will be running at the South Lake Leisure Centre and Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre from Friday, March 22 to Sunday, March 24.

With 207 athletes from all corners of Ireland set to participate in the three-day residential games, Team Ulster celebrated its own 23 athletes at a special launch event recently at Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre, attended by family and friends and political representatives.

Comprising of two sports, Alpine Skiing (at Craigavon Golf and Ski Centre) and Floorball (South Lake Leisure Centre), the event is set to be one of the largest games yet with 2024 being the first time that three regions will participate in Alpine Skiing and all five regions represented in Floorball.

With the countdown underway and excitement building, Special Olympics continues to bond communities with 86 coaches and official delegates and 170 volunteers accompanying the athletes at the games.

The Ireland Winter Games will be a highlight for Special Olympics athletes right across Ireland this year, having been postponed in 2020 due to Covid-19. For many, this will be their first opportunity to compete on an All-Ireland level. These Ireland Games are the qualifying event for the World Winter Games in Turin, Italy in 2025.

Speaking at the Ulster launch event, Shaun Cassidy, Regional Director of Special Olympics Ulster said: “We are extremely proud of our Team Ulster athletes, who are making their final preparations for the 2024 Ireland Winter Games. It is fantastic for our athletes to get the chance to meet local representatives, including the two Junior Ministers and hear such encouraging words from them.”

Angela Litter, Special Olympics Ulster Chairperson added: “It is a very exciting time for the Ulster region, with the Ireland Winter Games coming north for the first time ever. We will be counting on a lot of home support this March to give a warm Ulster welcome to the athletes from right across Ireland and make these games a great success.”

Skiing in Craigavon

Lord Mayor of ABC Council, Alderman Margaret Tinsley said: “As we get ready to host this momentous event, I would like to acknowledge the incredible dedication and hard work that all athletes have put into preparing for these Games. Their determination is truly inspiring – we can’t wait to welcome everyone to Craigavon and to see the athletes shine!”

The Games will officially open with a Law Enforcement Torch Run prior to the Opening Ceremony on March 22. Throughout the weekend of games, a Young Athletes Festival will take place in South Lake Leisure Centre on Friday and Saturday evening for all competitors.

Athletes can also avail of a Healthy Athlete Screening Programme and participate in other health-related activities at the games.

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