Or­lando to host sum­mer 2022 Spe­cial Olympics

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Stephen Hu­dak Staff Writer

Spe­cial Olympics plans to an­nounce to­day that Or­lando will host the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s USA Sum­mer Games in 2022, a cov­eted sport­ing event that prom­ises to have a $61 mil­lion im­pact on Cen­tral Florida’s econ­omy.

“Our ath­letes are over the moon ex­cited the USA games will be here,” Sherry Whee­lock, pres­i­dent/CEO of Spe­cial Olympics Florida, said Thurs­day.

Or­ange County com­mis­sion­ers last week voted unan­i­mously to of­fer $2 mil­lion to boost chances for land­ing the event, which would bring 4,000 ath­letes, 1,500 coaches and 20,000 fam­i­lies and fans from all 50 states to the re­gion.

Like most Su­per Bowl MVPs, Spe­cial Olympics ath­letes who earn a spot in the na­tional games can cel­e­brate by say­ing, “I’m go­ing to Dis­ney World”

be­cause many of the ath­letic venues are lo­cated on Dis­ney prop­er­ties.

The an­nounce­ment and con­tract sign­ing is due to take place this morn­ing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Com­plex at the Walt Dis­ney World Re­sort in Kis­sim­mee, host of this year’s Spe­cial Olympics Florida State Games, which open to­day.

Spe­cial Olympics is the largest sports or­ga­ni­za­tion in the world for peo­ple with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties, boast­ing 5 mil­lion ath­letes in 172 coun­tries.

Or­lando Mayor Buddy Dyer wel­comed the news as “more proof that our re­gion has be­come a premier sports event des­ti­na­tion.”

“The games will bring thou­sands of visi­tors to Cen­tral Florida, bol­ster­ing our econ­omy by fill­ing our restau­rants, shops and ho­tels,” he said Thurs­day. “But more im­por­tantly, the games will give us the op­por­tu­nity to wel­come and host some of the most in­spir­ing ath­letes in the coun­try.”

Or­ange County Mayor Teresa Ja­cobs also was en­thused.

“It is a won­der­ful op­por­tu­nity for the fam­i­lies and the ath­letes to train and com­pete in Or­ange County,” she said. “Their pas­sion and drive is an in­spi­ra­tion for our en­tire com­mu­nity.”

Cen­tral Florida’s bid for the games June 5 through June 10, 2022, beat out pro­pos­als from at least four other states, in­clud­ing New York.

“I think the difference for us [was] we pro­vide world­class ex­pe­ri­ences and of­fer world-class ath­letic venues,” said Joe Dza­luk, a re­tired IBM ex­ec­u­tive who is pres­i­dent and CEO of Or­lando’s Spe­cial Olympics 2022 bid.

Events will be held at the Wide World of Sports Com­plex, the YMCA Aquatic Cen­ter and the U.S. Ten­nis As­so­ci­a­tion cam­pus in Lake Nona.

The Spe­cial Olympics USA Sum­mer Games, held ev­ery four years, prom­ises to fill the equiv­a­lent of 57,000 ho­tel rooms, Dza­luk said. The Games com­prise 17 sports and ath­letes from the US and the Caribbean.

He said the games and Or­ange County are a great match.

“Spe­cial Olympics have in­spired thou­sands of peo­ple through the power of sports,” he said. “And Or­ange County has long been known as a wel­com­ing des­ti­na­tion for fam­i­lies and boasts some of the world’s most famed at­trac­tions, mak­ing it the ideal lo­ca­tion for the uni­fy­ing and in­spir­ing Spe­cial Olympics Games.”

Florida has 47,000 Spe­cial Olympians, though the num­ber is ex­pected to dou­ble to 100,000 in the next four years be­cause of re­cruit­ment efforts and grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity, said Sherry Whee­lock, pres­i­dent/CEO of Spe­cial Olympics.

Five years ago, the or­ga­ni­za­tion had 20,000 ath­letes.

About 3,200 Spe­cial Olympians re­side in Or­ange County.

Seat­tle is host­ing the USA Sum­mer Games this sum­mer.

Florida is send­ing a con­tin­gent of 230 peo­ple to the Seat­tle games, in­clud­ing chap­er­ones and 2,180 ath­letes in 17 sports.

Founded in 1968 by Eu­nice Kennedy Shriver, the Spe­cial Olympics is ded­i­cated to em­pow­er­ing in­di­vid­u­als with in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties to be­come phys­i­cally fit, pro­duc­tive and re­spected mem­bers of so­ci­ety through sports train­ing and com­pe­ti­tion, ac­cord­ing to its web­site.

Shriver died in 2009 of a stroke at age 88. She was the sis­ter of Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy and U.S. sen­a­tors Robert F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy.

Ac­cord­ing to the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion, up to 3 per­cent — or nearly 200 mil­lion peo­ple — of the world’s pop­u­la­tion have in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­i­ties.

The WHO lists in­tel­lec­tual dis­abil­ity as the largest devel­op­men­tal dis­abil­ity in the world.

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