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Mandela, Bono, Ali, incredible athletes ... 10 years on we look back at the amazing Spec ial Olympics

THIS week 10 years ago the whole Irish nation was enthralled and inspired.

THIS week 10 years ago the whole Irish nation was enthralled and inspired.

The determination, bravery and skill of Special athletes from 169 countries took centre stage as Ireland hosted the 2003 Special Olympics World Games – the largest event in the world that year.

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, U2, Colin Farrell, Muhammad Ali, Bon Jovi, and Arnold Schwarzenegger were among the stars who flew into Dublin for the opening ceremony.

The Games became the biggest sporting or cultural event ever to take place here and it was first time a Special Olympics World Games was staged outside the US.

Despite the sceptics, a team of incredible volunteers made the extraordinary happen and the Dublin Games dramatically changed the perceptions and attitudes towards those with intellectual disability.

Tears of emotion flowed during the opening ceremony when Bono sang In The Name Of Love and then led out Mr Mandela to light the Olympic Flame.


The Games were the first to have their own opening and closing ceremonies broadcast live. More than 7,000 Special Olympics atheletes were accompanied by 2,000 coaches, supported by 30,000 volunteers and watched by millions across the world.

Families across the country took Special athletes and their coaches into their homes for the Games, often forging life-long friendships as a result.

The legacy of the Dublin Games continues to be felt. Since 2003 Special Olympics, clubs across the country have doubled to 400 and cater for over 11,000 athletes each week.

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the 2003 World Games Special Olympics, people are being asked to reignite the inspiration of that time by challenging themselves to do something they've never done before.

The challenge is similar to that faced by people with an intellectual disability every day of their lives.