DOWNEY – As an official host city for this summer's Special Olympics World Games, the city of Downey has known for months that it would host an international delegation. On Tuesday, it was confirmed that the delegation will come from Ireland.
The 128-member delegation includes athletes, coaches, trainers and chaperones. They will arrive July 21 and spend four days in Downey before the World Games begin July 25.
More than 177 countries and 7,000 athletes are participating in the World Games, an Olympic-style competition specifically for people with intellectual or developmental disabilities. Opening ceremonies will take place at the L.A. Coliseum, and 25 Olympic-style sports will be played in venues throughout the Los Angeles region.
The Irish delegation will use its time in Downey to train and become acclimated to the time zone. Plans are also in the works for public festivities.
As a host city, Downey is responsible for providing lodging, meals and entertainment for the delegation. Downey is collaborating with local businesses, service clubs and sponsors to help offset the cost, including Coca-Cola, the Downey Association of Realtors, Embassy Suites Downey, PIH Downey, Soroptimist International of Downey, Downey Lions, and Kaiser Permanente, among others.
"The host town program gives each community an opportunity to showcase to the world what makes them special, but more importantly to provide citizens with a better understanding of intellectual disabilities that will lead to acceptance and inclusion for all," said Patrick McClenahan, president and CEO of LA2015, the organization behind the L.A. World Games. "Long after the World Games are over, the memories of those three days spent at Host Town will leave a lasting legacy for Special Olympics Southern California and everyone who was touched by our athletes.
"We are thankful to all participating host towns and their tireless volunteers for opening their doors – and their hearts – to our athletes and coaches."
Mayor Luis Marquez, who announced at Tuesday's City Council meeting that Downey would host Ireland, said he was "thrilled" that Downey is a Special Olympics host city and that he looks forward "to welcoming these amazing athletes to our community."
"Hosting the Ireland delegation is even more special to us due to our city's history ties with Ireland, and our sister city relationship with Roscommon County, Ireland."
Downey has a complete itinerary planned for the Irish delegation during their stay here. Some activities include a welcome community concert, private tour of the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and a visit to the Columbia Memorial Space Center. Several community organizations have signed up to sponsor meals and activities "to ensure the Ireland delegation has a wonderful and memorable experience here in Downey," officials said.
The city also is recruiting volunteers to assist during the delegation's stay. (Volunteer interest cards are available online at downeyca.org.)
"I invite our community members to get involved and help us welcome these talented athletes," said Mayor Pro Tem Alex Saab. "There are several sponsorship and volunteer opportunities available, so join us in making this a memorable experience for not only these athletes, but for our community as well."
For more details on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, including volunteer and sponsorship opportunities, go to la2015.org.