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Special Olympics

Everything you need to know about the Special Olympics GB Games and Fringe Festival

3 August 2017

It’s the country’s largest multi-sports event for athletes with learning disabilities – and it’s coming to Sheffield in just a few days’ time.

The Special Olympics GB National Summer Games runs from Tuesday 8 to Friday 11 August in Sheffield, and will see more than 2,600 athletes competing in 20 sporting categories.

An Olympic-style opening ceremony at Bramall Lane on Tuesday 8 August will see an athletes’ parade followed by performances by Tony Hadley, James Toseland and Kyle Tomlinson.

There are four days of competition events at 15 venues across the city, which people are invited to watch for free. Visit sheffield2017.org.uk for timetable and event details.

There will also be a Fringe Festival happening at various city centre locations, which includes art exhibitions, live performances and the opportunity to take part in a mass participation artwork.

Councillor Julie Dore, Leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “We can’t wait to host next week’s Special Olympics GB Games, and all the fringe activities. I hope all the athletes, their families and spectators have a great time and enjoy everything Sheffield has to offer.”

There is also an Activity Festival at the English Institute of Sport (EIS) on Wednesday 9 August, which will give people with a learning disability aged 11 years and over the chance to play a range of sports, including tennis, cricket, basketball, athletics, boccia and golf.

Deputy Leader of Sheffield City Council, Councillor Olivia Blake, said: “It’s great for Sheffield to be hosting the Special Olympics GB Games. I’m really looking forward to attending and presenting medals to some of the athletes, all of whom have worked so hard to be here.”

Special Olympics GB is part of a global movement that provides year-round sports training and athletic competition to nearly 5 million children and adults with learning disabilities in more than 170 countries. The GB National Summer Games is the showcase event and takes place every four years. This is the tenth event and the second time it has been held in Sheffield – the first was in 1993.

Karen Wallin, CEO of Special Olympics GB, said: “We are thrilled to be back in the great city of Sheffield. This very significant sporting event required a large amount of assistance and energy from the local community and they have delivered.

“We are sure Sheffield will provide a very successful and hugely memorable event and backdrop for our athletes and the families, coaches and volunteers.”

For more information, visit sheffield2017.org.uk. Show your support on social media using #Sheffield17 and #seeingisbelieving.


Opening ceremony

Spectators at the opening ceremony, taking place 5pm-9pm on Tuesday 8 August, will be treated to performances by iconic singer and former Spandau Ballet lead Tony Hadley, former World Superbikes champion turned rockstar James Toseland and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Kyle Tomlinson.

The event will be hosted by Moto GP presenter Suzi Perry, Downton Abbey’s Jim Carter and football pundit Chris Kamara, with performances by the Rationale Theatre Company featuring disabled and able-bodied artists from Under the Stars, Team Power Stilts, Aim to Dance, Kansaze African Dancers, Chinese Lions Dance, Team Katalyst and ParaCheer cheerleaders.

Tickets for the Games’ opening ceremony cost £5-£8 and can be bought from www.sufc.co.uk/special-olympics, by calling 0114 253 7200 (option 1) or getting them in person at the Sheffield United FC Box Office at Bramall Lane.


Fringe Festival

The Games aren’t just for those interested in sport, as the more artistically minded can also get involved. A giant artwork will be split into 16 pieces and distributed to venues across the city for the people of Sheffield to colour. While this mass participation art is for everyone, those with a learning disability are especially encouraged to engage with this part of Sheffield’s legacy as the host city.

The pieces will be located in the reading room at the Central Library on Monday 7 and Tuesday 8 August; in the Millennium Gallery’s Cadman Room on Monday 7, Tuesday 8 and the morning of Wednesday 9 August; and in an Information Marquee in Tudor Square on Wednesday 9 August.

Once every piece has been completed, the full artwork will be revealed at a special ceremony in the Winter Garden. Join Special Olympics GB CEO Karen Wallin and the Lord Mayor of Sheffield Cllr Anne Murphy on Thursday 10 August at 5.30pm to see the pieces reunited for the first time.

Nearby Tudor Square is a Special Olympics hotspot during the week, with an Information Marquee that will be open to the public from Wednesday 9 to Friday 11 August.

Several local organisations will be hosting stalls in the marquee, and there will be an information point for anyone looking to find out more about the Games. This includes details of how to get involved in local Special Olympics groups and take part in future events.

Elsewhere in the city, a varied Fringe Festival programme has been brought together by organisations that work with people with learning disabilities.

From Monday 7 to Saturday 12 August, the ‘Get Yourself Active’ photo exhibition run by the Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living will take place in the Town Hall reception rooms. The photos have been taken by a range of people including local photographer Adrian Ashworth and feature athletes and local disabled people taking part in a range of activities.

From Monday 7 to Wednesday 9 August, the Millennium Gallery will host ‘Seeing is Believing’, an exhibition curated by ArtWorks that showcases work by local people with learning disabilities and other artists. It hopes to challenge people’s perceptions of intellectual disabilities through celebrating the creativity and ambition of the artists involved.

From Wednesday 9 to Friday 11 August, ‘I am… we are’ will be at the Information Marquee on Tudor Square. This interactive artwork by Burton Street – an organisation that works with people of all ages with learning and physical disabilities – encourages people to build a collage of Sheffield during the Games using photos and statements.

On Wednesday 9 August at 2pm there will be a performance in Tudor Square by Practically Theatre, an organisation working with people with learning disabilities and those without access to theatre. The piece is called ‘A New Journey’ and follows an athlete’s journey to the Special Olympics.

On Thursday 10 August at 11.15am and 1pm, Under the Stars – a music and drama social enterprise by and for people with learning disabilities whose performers create original shows based on their own ideas – will perform a piece of contemporary theatre.

Later on Thursday, from 2.30pm to 4.30pm, the Showroom Cinema will be showing films from Sheffield and further afield that depict empowering and thought-provoking portrayals of disability. The films all involve local disabled people and will include films from Under the Stars, Flycheese and Disability Sheffield.


Torch Run

In true Olympic style, there is also a torch run, which is currently taking the ‘Flame of Hope’ from Much Wenlock in Shropshire (the historic birthplace of the modern Olympic Games) on a ten-day tour of towns and cities.

It will arrive in Sheffield on Tuesday 8 August, first visiting Meadowhall at 11am followed by Weston Park at 3.30pm before heading to Bramall Lane via The Moor at 8pm.

The Flame will be passed between athletes from each region then finally to a Special Olympics GB Yorkshire and Humberside region athlete. This final athlete will pass the Flame to the South Yorkshire Police Chief Constable who will light the symbolic cauldron to mark the official start of the Games.