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Special Olympics Games set to take place this week

Archive image of the 38th Special Olympics Games. Photo by Stephen Ignacio

The president and CEO of Special Olympics Gibraltar (SOG), Annie Risso, has been working tirelessly with the team to get the Rock ready for the 39th Games which starts tonight.

The Games will showcase the athletes’ abilities and bring the community together in celebration.

While the athletes dedicate hours to their training, behind the scenes “it's go, go, go all the time," said Ms Risso.

The success of the Games relies heavily on a dedicated team of around 12 to 14 directors, each overseeing various aspects of the event.

From logistics to fundraising, these volunteers are the backbone of the operation, ensuring every detail is meticulously planned.

“We have a magnificent team of volunteers working tirelessly to make this year's event unforgettable,” Ms Russo said.

“We've been planning for months, looking to elevate the experience for our athletes and spectators alike."

"These games are incredibly important to our athletes.”

"Not all athletes can travel abroad for competitions, so our national games are their moment to shine. They train all year for this, and the excitement is palpable."

This year, the Games will feature new professional equipment, including electronic touch pads for swimming events, ensuring precise timing and a more streamlined experience.

The opening ceremony, on Wednesday evening, and athletic events will be streamed globally, allowing families and supporters worldwide to watch the action live.

"We're working on streaming through YouTube and leveraging our social media platforms," said Ms Risso.

"This initiative not only enhances the visibility of our athletes but also connects us with the global Special Olympics community."

The opening ceremony promises to be a traditional yet spectacular affair, featuring a parade of athletes, the relay of the torch, and the recitation of the Special Olympics oath: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt."

This year, St. Martin's Choir will perform.

The games include multiple sports such as football, bocce, bowling, swimming and athletics.

There are unique aspects to some of the events where some athletes will have a support person alongside them.

The Games take place over three days, and the public is encouraged to come and watch their local athletes, alongside some athletes from the Isle of Man, while Ms Risso reminds people that these are athletes with abilities not disabilities.

"When people think of Special Olympics, they often underestimate our athletes,” she said.

“We want everyone to see their abilities firsthand. They will be astonished by what they see.”

The Games will start with the Law Enforcement Torch Run around the streets of Gibraltar on Wednesday afternoon with the flame collecting money for SOG.

This will then arrive at Lathbury Stadium at approximately 6pm where it will be passed to a Special Olympics athlete, as they are the only one permitted to carry the torch into the stadium.

Once there, the Special Olympics flag will be raised and the Olympic cauldron lit.

After the ceremony, the athletics competition will start immediately afterwards. This will be followed on Thursday by the 5-a-side football competition at 9am at the Special Olympics Sports Complex where the teams will also face competition from a team from Algeciras.

On Thursday afternoon at 4pm there will be an extended bocce competition also at the Special Olympics Sports Complex. On Friday morning at 9.30pm, there will be a 10-pin bowling competition at the Kings Bastion Leisure Centre.

On Friday evening at 6pm there will be the swimming competition at the Lathbury Sports Complex pool, before the closing ceremony when the flame will be extinguished.

For more information and updates, follow Special Olympics Gibraltar on social media or visit their website at https://www.specialolympicsgibraltar.org/

Special Olympics Gibraltar is also proud of its dedicated sports complex, a unique facility in Europe.

Built with the support of the Government, the complex offers athletes “a home from home” where they can train and socialise.

The facility is also available for community use for select events, reflecting the organisation's commitment to giving back.

For more information on the sports complex visit their newly launched website: https://sogsportscomplex.org/

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