- Team Ireland among 7,000 athletes competing at global World Summer Games in Los Angeles
- Spectacular Opening Ceremony held at iconic Memorial Coliseum
- Actor Colin Farrell, Olympic medallist John Treacy and Special Olympics ambassador Claudine Keane lead out Team Ireland’s delegation at the Opening Ceremony
- World Games run from July 25th to August 2nd
A trio of well-known Irish stars joined Team Ireland for the official parade of athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles (LA2015) last night (Saturday 25th July 2015). John Treacy, CEO of the Irish Sports Council, who won a historic silver medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, was joined by actor Colin Farrell, a long-time supporter of the Special Olympics movement and Claudine Keane, wife of Irish football captain, Robbie Keane. Both of the Keane’s are current ambassadors for Team Ireland.
This is a massive year for Special Olympics Ireland and its 88 athletes – including 12 from Ulster – who have travelled to Los Angeles to compete as part of Team Ireland at LA2015. The Games officially get underway tonight (Saturday 25thJuly) at a star-studded Opening Ceremony at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympics Games.
The event featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Avril Lavigne and Nicole Scherzinger, Cody Simpson (featuring Special Olympics athlete Breanna Bogucki and YouTube sensation Madison Tevlin), J Balvin & Becky G, and Reach Up LA theme song creator Siedah Garrett. There were also appearances by First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, Jimmy Kimmel, actress Eva Longoria and Olympic star Michael Phelps, among many others.
It was something of a walk down memory lane for Irish Olympic hero Treacy who represented the country at four Olympic Games between 1980 and 1992 and also won a historic silver medal in 1984 in the marathon.
Speaking ahead of the Opening Ceremony, Mr Treacy said: “I would like to wish Team Ireland every success at the World Games. Being back in the LA Coliseum brings back so many incredible memories and emotions. To represent your country on the world stage is an incredible experience for all involved and I would like congratulate all the athletes and their families here today. I have no doubt that they will be wonderful ambassadors for our country and that will perform with distinction throughout the course of the Games”.
Actor Colin Farrell, who has been involved with Special Olympics since the 2003 World Games, which were held in his native Dublin, joined Treacy in leading the Irish delegation at the ceremony.
Mr Farrell, who currently resides in Los Angeles, said he was honoured to be involved. “I’m so excited to once more bear witness to the spirit of competition amidst the solidarity that the 2015 World Summer Games will showcase. So many athletes from all over the world coming together and the Irish team front and centre. Meeting all of the athletes and walking out amongst the Irish team is such a great honour. Let’s go Ireland! Let’s go world!”
Claudine Keane was equally thrilled to be part of the Opening Ceremony proceedings and said was a “real honour” to be accompanying the athletes in the parade. Her involvement comes after a busy 12 months for Claudine and her husband Robbie who are both ambassadors for Team Ireland. The high-profile pair fronted the Special Olympics Support an Athlete campaign which raised the funds necessary to send the 88 athletes to Los Angeles for the World Games.
The Opening Ceremony also featured the official raising of the Special Olympics flag and for Ulster Team Ireland athlete golf Oliver Doherty from Buncrana, Co. Donegal this was a momentous occasion as he accompanied the flag as part of the procession. The golfer was chosen along with three others who all hold gold medals from previous World Games. Oliver won his gold medal in his sport golf at the 2003 World Games which were held in Dublin. Speaking of his involvement, Oliver said: “I feel honoured to be carrying the flag and feel privileged to be represented the team and country.”
Matt English, CEO Special Olympics Ireland, said Special Olympics Ireland is thrilled to have such well-known and respected stars accompany the Irish athletes in the parade. “Special Olympics Ireland has always relied on the support of friends across many different spectrums. Having individuals like John Treacy, with his connection to Los Angeles and his immensely supportive role through the Irish Sports Council, Colin Farrell, as a well-known actor who has lent his support time and time again to our movement, and Claudine Keane, who together with her husband, Robbie, helped galvanise our fundraising campaign to get Team Ireland to the World Games, is hugely important to both the organisation, and our athletes. I would like to sincerely thank them for their ongoing and vital support.”
The World Games run until August 2nd 2015. Team Ireland will compete in 13 different Olympic style sports. Their selection comes after four years of training and competition.
Twelve local Special Olympics Ulster athletes will compete in the Special Olympics World Summer Games, Los Angeles 2015 (LA2015) as part of Team Ireland: Christopher Kane, aged 19, from Lisburn and Peter Fitzpatrick, aged 20 from Ballynahinch, Co. Down (5-a side football); Carole Catling, aged 37 from Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim (table tennis); Kirsty Devlin, aged 20 from Belfast and Patrick Quinlivan, aged 32 from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (gymnastics); Oliver Doherty, aged 38 from Buncrana, Co. Donegal, Jill Connery, aged 29 from Scarva, Co. Armagh & playing partner, Ursula McDonnell, aged 71 from Belfast (all golf); Sarah Jane Johnston, aged 35 from Lurgan, Co. Armagh (aquatics); Déarbháil Savage, aged 14 from Mowhan, Co. Armagh (equestrian); Sean Campbell, aged 30 from Coleraine (ten pin bowling); and Nuala Browne, aged 38 from Strabane, Co. Tyrone (kayaking).
A 40-strong coaching and management team will support the athletes in Los Angeles, with 155 Team Ireland volunteers working at the Games. Over 300 family members have also made the trip to the World Games to support Team Ireland athletes.
Follow Team Ireland at the World Games:
Twitter: @SOIreland use @SO_Ulster the hashtags, #TeamIreland #LA2015 & #SupportanAthlete
— Love Belfast ❤️ (@love_belfast) July 25, 2015
Special Olympics is a year-round sports organisation for athletes with intellectual disabilities and is supported by the Irish Sports Council and Sport NI.