Special Olympics: Britain could host 'best ever' Games, say organisers

By Joe WilsonBBC News sports correspondent
Alison Mackenzie
Alison Mackenzie of Great Britain competed in the rhythmic gymnastics in Abu Dhabi

Britain could stage the "best ever" Special Olympics if the UK government backs a bid to host it, organisers say.

The Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi, which finished on Thursday, was the largest ever with participants from 200 nations. Britain won 169 medals.

Special Olympics GB CEO Michelle Carney said: "We've hosted the Olympics and the Paralympics, World Championships, Commonwealth Games - why are we not looking at the Special Olympics?

"We have the facilities to host it."

She added: "It would fundamentally change the lives of the athletes and change the perceptions of intellectual disability within Great Britain."

The Special Olympics is for competitors with intellectual disability and there is a focus on participation and personal development rather than medals.

Britain has never hosted the Games, which began in the United States in 1968 and operates on a four-year cycle of summer and winter games.

Carney said the estimated cost of hosting the event, which Special Olympics GB is targeting in 2031, would be around £10-15m.

"I just don't know why we wouldn't do it," she said. "Considering what we pay for other big sporting events, why could we not host the best world games there's ever been for Special Olympics? We are so good at it, let's just prove it, let's make it happen.

"Some of our athletes were told they could never walk, talk or sit up. The magic of Special Olympics is that it's about all-ability sport and it's about competing, having fun, making friendships and learning about different people across the world.

"I think we need to change our perception that sporting success is built on the number of gold medals; our success is built on the number of lives we change."

Among those to win medals in Abu Dhabi were cyclist Kiera Byland, who won three golds, gymnast Lauren Douce, who finished with four golds and a silver, while tennis players Lily Mills and Ryan Caven won two golds each.

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