A massive drive has begun to find volunteers who are willing to give up their free time for the Special Olympics’ national summer games in Sheffield.
Around 750 people will be needed in a range of roles across five days in August 2017 to help the event – which will return to the city for the first time in 24 years – run smoothly.
Sheffield footballing icons, Tony Currie and David Hirst, attended a ceremony at the Winter Gardens yesterday morning which officially launched the Volunteers Programme for the Games.
The Special Olympics hold a special place in David’s heart as he remembered the joy of seeing a family friend win a bronze medal in swimming when the Games were last held in the Steel City in 1993.
“It was amazing to see the smile on her face and the competition itself,” he said.
“It is great to be a part of it. People will be coming to live out their dreams and other people will be flocking to Sheffield to watch them.
“These athletes have worked hard and we need people to support them. Myself and Tony were asked to be ambassadors and it’s something I wanted to get on board with.”
Lord Mayor, Coun Talib Hussain and Deputy Lord Mayor, Coun Denise Fox were also in attendance as they became two of the first people to sign up as volunteers for the competition.
The Special Olympics’ national summer games is a sports competition for athletes with learning disabilities.
More than 2,500 competitors will travel to Sheffield next summer to take part in 19 sporting events including football, tennis and ten-pin bowling.
Jean Pickering, aged 79, volunteered at the Games in 1993 along with Pam Deniff, 82 and Shirley Heley, 72.
She said: “We have been volunteering together at these kinds of events since 1990, but the Special Olympics has always been our favourite.
“It’s wonderful seeing all the swimmers and athletes and it is a great platform for people with disabilities.”
A number of sporting landmarks across the city will be used for the Games, with Ponds Forge in the city centre and the EIS in Attercliffe already confirmed as venues.
Bramall Lane – the home of Sheffield United – will host the opening ceremony on August 8 next year.
Young basketballer Niall Guite, from Millhouses, who is affected by global developmental delay and communication difficulties, is one of those competing in Sheffield next summer.
The 21-year-old won a gold medal in the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles last year but is looking forward to competing in the city where he grew up.
He said: “It’s really exciting and I’m looking forward to meeting different people and taking part in my hometown.”
n Information on volunteering for next year’s Games can be found at www.sheffield2017.org.uk