Ahead of Special Olympics GB’s National Games in August with 2,600 athletes with learning disability competing across 20 sports, a further 200 young people will be given a first sporting opportunity in life on Thursday 25th May in London. Young people from across London with intellectual (learning) disabilities will have the opportunity to participate in a variety of different sports at a free Sporting Festival held at the Copper Box Arena on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The event, organised by Special Olympics Great Britain, is aimed at raising awareness of the availability of sports training and competition for all young people with intellectual disabilities regardless of their ability across the Greater London region and how to access it. The event is being supported by the Metlife Foundation, who have given a grant to support the ongoing London development project.
The participants will take part in six sports sessions including hockey, athletics, boccia, tennis, dance and golf which is a programme specifically for. The sessions will be delivered by a variety of national governing bodies and disability sports organisations that are working with SOGB in London ensuring that there are meaningful routes for participants post the event.
* There are an estimated 1.5 million people (2% population) with an intellectual (learning) disability in Great Britain. The year-round sport provided by Special Olympics is important to people with learning disabilities because adults and children with intellectual disabilities tend to have poorer health and the many emotional and physical problems associated with inactivity.
* Special Olympics GB has the ability to improve the lives and mental wellness of those people who take part in their sports events and training. Research from Canterbury Christchurch University showed that those who did participate in Special Olympics had a higher self-esteem than those who did not take part. Higher self-esteem leads to more feelings of self-worth and more self-care. Findings also concluded that those involved in Special Olympics had wider social networks and lower stress levels. One in three people with an intellectual disability (an IQ of 75 or less), suffer from obesity – as opposed to 1 in 5 people without an intellectual disability. The sports training provided by Special Olympics can help to tackle this issue that can be caused by inactivity.
* Recent government funded research shows marked differences in the life expectancy of people with intellectual disabilities. Men with intellectual disabilities die on average 13 years earlier than men without disability, whilst the figure for females is a staggering 20-year disparity. This research also shows that 1,200 people with learning disability die unnecessarily prematurely each year due to issues such as inadequate regular medical care and lack of an annual health check.
* Special Olympics can help this huge issue by ensuring people with an intellectual disability are kept within an inclusive social community network which can identify health problems and issues by their coaches and club members. Special Olympics GB is working hard with medical experts to address these issues through our sports training and competition - a key programme called ‘Healthy Athletes’ makes health checks available to our athletes at key competitions. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities opportunities to increase their confidence; realise their potential; develop physical fitness and mental wellbeing; demonstrate courage and experience new friendships.
Karen Wallin, Special Olympics GB’S CEO, commented: “We are delighted to offer this opportunity for young people with intellectual disabilities in London. Special Olympics GB is the largest registered charity providing year round sports training and competition opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities. Through our year-round sporting opportunities we enable children and adults with intellectual disability to improve their health, fitness and we are growing our reach and access opportunities in London to allow more people the benefits of being involved.”