23 May 2022

Countdown starts to Special Olympics National Summer Games

Hamilton is gearing up to host the largest multi-sport event in New Zealand of the year, 200 days from today, when over 1500 Special Olympics athletes and coaches will compete at the National Summer Games.

The Freemasons New Zealand Special Olympics National Summer Games, the pinnacle sports event for people with intellectual disabilities, had to be postponed last year due to the pandemic, but the organisers are using the delay to deliver an even bigger and better event.

“Hamilton is really thrilled and very proud to warmly welcome athletes from all corners of New Zealand to our gorgeous city,“ says Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate, who joined a number of Special Olympics basketball teams for a friendly game to mark the 200-day countdown mark.

“I know some of our own Council staff have volunteered to be part of the event which is really special. We know our venues are ready to go and we’re looking forward to helping deliver a terrific event.”

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Carolyn Young says the National Summer Games has evolved to become one of the biggest sporting competitions in the country since the first National Games were held in 1985.

“The National Summer Games are our flagship four-yearly event and while last year’s postponement was a real disappointment for our athletes, coaches and volunteers, the additional year has given everyone the opportunity to catch up on training, undertake more fundraising and planning, so we expect the Games to be spectacular,” says Young.

Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker was a special guest at the countdown event in Hamilton and took the athletes through some basketball drills.

The Waikato international was honoured to be at her first Special Olympics event and was blown away by the players' enthusiasm.

“At a high-performance level, basketball can get very serious, so it is wonderful to see what sport is all about, having fun with your mates,” said the New Zealand international who encouraged all Waikato locals to join the action from December 8-12.

Athletes will compete around Hamilton in 10 sporting disciplines, across eight different venues and the Special Olympics Chief Executive says that city has truly embraced the games, with local volunteers continuing to re-commit their time to make sure the athletes have a truly special experience.

“The National Summer Games depends on the work of over 600 volunteers and we are grateful to those who signed up after the Games were postponed last year.

“We will have another volunteer drive in the next couple of months and welcome all the support we can get. We can’t do this without you,” says Young.

A large number of those volunteers will be provided by the Freemasons New Zealand, who are the naming rights sponsor for the event, but also provide vital volunteer support and strong fundraising expertise.

Freemasons New Zealand Grand Master Graham Wrigley said the sponsorship reflects the organisation’s long-held commitment to supporting community-focused events and initiatives, especially those that involve or benefit groups like Special Olympics athletes.

“Freemasons is, first and foremost, a charitable organisation and through our charity we fund a variety of organisations to the tune of around $12 million a year.

“But our Brethren also want to get hands-on and we enjoy supporting organisations and initiatives by actively working alongside them and participating with them to help them achieve their goals.”

“In supporting Special Olympics NZ and the 2021 National Summer Games, we get the best of both worlds, and we hope everyone involved in the games, from the coaches, to the athletes, administrators, volunteers and family supporters, will derive some benefit from what our Brethren can offer.”