The final countdown is on for the Special Olympics Ireland Games, as 273 Ulster athletes prepare to compete on a national stage this weekend.
Local athletes travelled from across the Ulster region to Dublin for the Special Olympics Ireland Games, ahead of the Opening Ceremony. There were emotional scenes as friends, family and supporters cheered on over 100 local athletes from the Team Ulster delegation as they made their way onto the train at Central Station on Thursday morning.
President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, performed the official opening of the 2018 Special Olympics Ireland Games on Thursday night.
The Opening Ceremony kicks off three full days of competition in what is set to be one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland in 2018.
Team Ulster athletes, Margaret Hazley, 67 from Co. Armagh (swimming) and Joe O’Hanlon, 28 from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal (basketball) were amongst the athletes that led a procession of torches and flags into the stadium to open the Games.
The Opening Ceremony feature exciting performances from well-known Irish acts such as Irish Folk Duo, Hudson Taylor and pop singer, Jake Carter.
The Ireland Games run until June 17 in Dublin. 1,600 Special Olympics athletes from across Ireland will participate in 13 sports and Motor Activities Training. The athletes will be supported by 600 coaches and official delegates and 2,500 volunteers.
The Games are set to be one of the largest and most prestigious sporting events to take place in Ireland in 2018 and selected athletes from these Games will go on to represent Team Ireland at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi.
During the weekend of the Games, various cultural and entertainment items will be organised, giving athletes, families, volunteers and the public an opportunity to experience a true Olympics-style event.
The athletes will also be able to avail of a Healthy Athlete Screening Programme and participate in other health related activities throughout the weekend.