Special Olympics Canada Summer Games Come to Vancouver

Dave Devison, power lifting | BCBusiness
Dave Devison competes in the power lifting event.

Organizing committee celebrates hosting the Games for the first time in 20 years as the 100-day countdown to the July 8 opening ceremony draws near

Get ready for another torch relay and cauldron lighting: the 2014 Special Olympics Canada Summer Games are coming to UBC from July 8-12.

Held every four years, coaches, officials and more than 2,000 athletes with intellectual disabilities will be participating in 11 sports, including three new disciplines to make this the largest Summer Games in Special Olympics Canada’s history. Athletes will be vying for spots on Team Canada at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles.

“It’s very close in size to the Paralympic Games,” says Games chair Cathy Priestner Allinger. A 1976 Olympic silver medallist in speedskating, Priestner Allinger brought experience and connections from her time on the VANOC organizing committee to her role as Games chair. “I had the luxury of being able to attract a lot of VANOC employees,” she says. “We’ve got some incredible expertise at the table.”

With 100 days until the opening ceremony, “I think we’re exactly where we want to be,” says Priestner Allinger. “We want to raise more money so that we have a great legacy beyond our games for athletes in British Columbia.”

Along with the federal and provincial governments, Vancouver’s Goldcorp has extended its long-term support of Special Olympics British Columbia to a gold sponsorship of the Games. “It’s exciting to be holding the National Games here for the first time in 20 years. We were anxious to support that event,” says Goldcorp president and CEO Chuck Jeannes. “It’s an amazing opportunity to work with and around people who want to compete and strive for improvement, whether it’s in individual or team sports. We’re not the only supporter—I’m very proud of the way the mining community has stepped up.”

B.C.’s athletes are benefitting from a new initiative called the “Performance Project.” Patterned after the Olympic “Own the Podium” program, Special Olympics B.C. is seeing significant results after just one year, and the program has caught the attention of Special Olympics Canada.

Priestner Allinger promises a tremendous experience for fans and volunteers alike at the Games. “We’re going to have a great Opening Ceremony, and the sporting events are super fun. We typically run out of space at swimming, bowling, rhythmic gymnastics and power lifting. You’ll see some great athleticism, some great sportsmanship—some great competitors.”