Byline: Taylor Hill
LONG BEACH — The city of Los Angeles won its bid to host the 2015 Special Olympics World Games — and the city of Long Beach won as well, as both the sailing and kayaking events will be held along the Long Beach waterfront.
The announcement, which came at a press event at Staples Center, paves the way for more than 7,000 Special Olympics athletes from 170 nations to compete in 21 Olympic sports.
According to Games Organizing Committee president Patrick McClenahan, Long Beach will host the kayaking events in Marine Stadium. Sailing events will be held off Alamitos Bay and Long Beach’s Inner Harbor.
With the Special Olympics Southern California (SOSC) branch based in Long Beach, McClenahan — who was the previous chairman of the board for SOSC — said the destination made sense for the water-based sports.
“Both the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games were held in Long Beach’s Marine Stadium, so there’s a great history there,” McClenahan said. “There’s also a great amount of support from the boating community there, including the Pacific Coast Sailing Foundation and Alamitos Bay Yacht Club.”
McClenahan said plans are to involve the entire community in Long Beach to get involved in participating and supporting the Special Olympics World Games.
When the Special Olympics selection committee came to visit the Long Beach site in March, they watched Long Beach Yacht Club’s Congressional Cup being held off Belmont Pier and saw the potential for holding sailing events in that area.
“The site committee really got to see how dynamic a sailing event can be when held off the end of the pier,” McClenahan said. “It was definitely one of the featured sites in our presentation to the selection committee.”
Exact dates haven’t been set yet, but the venues have been chosen for all 21 sports. There will be two athlete villages, on the University of Southern California and the University of California, Los Angeles campuses. The campuses also will host several events, with the rest spread around Los Angeles from Griffith Park to the Home Depot Center.
At the press event, a memorandum of agreement was signed by Special Olympics chairman Timothy Shriver and McClenahan — chairman of the Los Angeles Bid Committee, who transitioned to become the president of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Organizing Committee.
“On behalf of our entire Special Olympics movement worldwide, I am thrilled to award our 2015 World Games to Los Angeles,” Shriver said. “Bringing our World Games to a city as powerful and prominent on the world stage as Los Angeles will allow our Special Olympics athletes to showcase their talents and demonstrate to the world the best in sports.”
Every two years, thousands of Special Olympics athletes worldwide come together to showcase their athletic skills and celebrate the spirit of Special Olympics, which celebrates nearly 50,000 events a year.
The first Special Olympics World Games took place in 1968. Alternating between Summer Games and Winter Games, Special Olympics World Games bring public attention to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to change attitudes and break down barriers that can exclude them from the mainstream of the community.
Special Olympics World Summer Games Athens 2011 were held in Greece, and the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games will be held in Korea.
The Special Olympics World Summer Games will return to the United States after 16 years, having last been held in the U.S. in 1999 in Raleigh, N.C. The 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games are expected to bring more than one-half million people to the greater Los Angeles area.
McClenahan is currently working on putting together the volunteer platform and schedule for the games.
“It’s a great opportunity for the region, and for the Special Olympics,” McClenahan said. “There is a significant impact the Special Olympics has, not only on the lives of the athletes, but on the lives of everybody that comes in contact with Special Olympics. The classic response for people who volunteer is, ‘I went to volunteer to help these athletes, and they ended up helping me.’”
For more information about Special Olympics World Summer Games Los Angeles 2015, visit specialolympics.org.