Race is on to raise €2m for Special Olympics
ALMOST €2m needs to be raised to fund the 2014 Special Olympics Ireland Games taking place in Limerick next summer.
Speaking at a gala event to mark the launch of the Games, Special Olympics CEO Matt English said "people and finance" were critical to guarantee their success.
Up to 1,500 Special Olympics athletes from across Ireland will travel to Limerick for the Games, which follow the successful staging of the same event in the city in 2010.
They will be supported by a team of 3,000 volunteers who will be recruited from Limerick and beyond in a major volunteer recruitment campaign being led by Ireland rugby captain Paul O'Connell. The event will take place from June 12-15.
When asked how cuts in funding to services for people with disabilities is affecting Special Olympics, Mr English admitted it has become increasingly difficult to fund new clubs. "We have 11,000 athletes who are training every week out of 400 clubs.
"What we have found due to cutbacks in services generally is we are having to replace those (clubs) with opening up community-based clubs that are voluntary-run.
"Everybody is hurting and our athletes are affected by the economy like everybody else."
Businessman Denis O'Brien, chairman of Special Olympics Ireland's Council of Patrons, said the 2010 Games left a lasting legacy on Limerick.
He said it provided more opportunities for people with an intellectual disability to benefit from participation in sport. "I have no doubt that the 2014 Games will be equally as successful and enjoyable for all concerned," he said.