The country's largest multi-sports event for athletes with learning disabilities kicks off in Sheffield today.
The Special Olympics GB National Summer Games starts today and runs until Friday, August 11, and will see more than 2,600 athletes competing in 20 sporting categories.
An Olympic-style opening ceremony will be held at Bramall Lane tonight including an athletes’ parade followed by performances by former Spandau Ballet lead Tony Hadley, former World Superbikes champion turned rockstar James Toseland and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Kyle Tomlinson.
An Olympic style torch will visit 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.
There are four days of competition events at 15 venues across the city, which people are invited to watch for free.
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 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 on Wednesday, 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 Council, Coun 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 five 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 10th event and the second time it has been held in Sheffield – the first was in 1993.
Karen Wallin, chief executive 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.”
Tickets for the 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 .
Visit www.sheffield2017.org.uk for timetable and event details.
The Games are not 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.
The pieces will be located in the reading room at the Central Library today; in the Millennium Gallery’s Cadman Room today and tomorrow morning; and in an Information Marquee in Tudor Square tomorrow.
Once every piece has been completed, the full artwork will be revealed at a special ceremony in the Winter Garden at 5.30pm on Thursday.
Nearby Tudor Square is a Special Olympics hotspot during the week, with an Information Marquee that will be open to the public from Wednesday to Friday.
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.
The ‘Get Yourself Active’ photo exhibition run by the Disability Sheffield Centre for Independent Living will take place in the Town Hall reception rooms all week until Saturday. 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.
Until Wednesday, 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.
Until Friday, ‘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 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 1at 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.
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.