Tonight is the official opening of the Special Olympics National Summer Games GB, the country's largest sports event for athletes with intellectual disabilities, held every four years.
As a resident of the city my family and I are SO excited that the 9th National Summer Games are being held in our beautiful home city of Bath.
Over three days of competition 1,700 athletes from England, Scotland and Wales will compete in 12 sports. It will be a truly magnificent event, showcasing the real value of sport and how it transforms the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. It is not just about winning but about boosting confidence and building self esteem. Focusing on ability, not disability.
As the mother of a child with Down's syndrome the games have been an inspiration to me since the week my son Seb was born. My health visitor told me of her friend's son who was a swimmer in the games and my mum told me of someone she knew who competed in the equestrian field (so to speak!). It made me feel included, gave a sense of 'normality' and achievement at a time when things seemed pretty tough and blurry and as far from 'typical' as you could get.
But what makes these games even more special, apart from being on our doorstep and giving us 1,700 inspirational athletes, is that my husband's cousin, an Olympic gold medallist himself, is an ambassador for the games.
It seems like only yesterday that Simon and I were squeezed into the front room of my teeny tiny city flat, glued to my boxy 14 inch TV and watched Jason Gardener, the Bath Bullet, run to victory in the 4 x 100m for GB and win gold! It was a beautifully sunny day and a truly exhilarating 40 or so seconds! It was without a doubt a very special summer, Athens 2004.
Jason's family were one of the first visitors to welcome Seb home from hospital, just 6 days after he was born. We had a house full of family all wanting to meet him. At the time I probably could have done without it, feeling heartbroken and battered and envious of everyone else's 'normality', I am so glad now though that Seb got the same welcome as any family first born, one he deserved just as much.
So. It's 9 years on from Athens and 5 years on from Seb's arrival into our family, I am so looking forward to watching and meeting some of the visitors to our city, i have my goosebumps ready and I reckon this summer is going to end up being pretty special too.....
WE WISH ALL THE ATHLETES THE BEST OF LUCK IN THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS NATIONAL SUMMER GAMES, BATH 2013
The opening of the games takes place this evening at The Royal Crescent in Bath from 5.30pm.
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