Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 has announced that the City of Carson will serve as a “Host Town” for a delegation of athletes and coaches from another country, and that California State University, Dominguez Hills (CSUDH) will provide them housing accommodations leading up to the games, which take place in Los Angeles July 25 – Aug. 2, 2015.
The announcement came during a press conference on Oct. 27 in the courtyard at CSUDH’s Student Housing complex. The event included remarks from Bill Shumard, president and CEO of Special Olympics Southern California, CSUDH Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn, Carson Mayor James Dear, and World Games athlete and Global Messenger Marco Martinez.
Serving as emcee for the event was Adam Duvendeck, director of cycling for the Velo Sports Center at the StubHub Center, located at CSUDH, who competed as a track cyclist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics. He has also been involved in Special Olympics for several years.
“I’ve been involved in sports programming for the Special Olympics and it has really been impactful in my life,” said Duvendeck as he provided the press conference’s opening remarks. “Now it’s the city’s opportunity to get involved, and everyone who participates will understand how impactful and important the Special Olympics are.”
The World Games will feature more than 7,000 athletes from 177 countries competing in 25 Olympic-style sports. A star-studded opening ceremony will take place at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, with subsequent competitions taking place at USC and UCLA. An estimated 500,000 spectators will attend the games, and as many as 100 communities throughout Southern California have been selected as Host Towns.
As part of Carson’s Host Town partnership, CSUDH will house a delegation of World Game athletes and coaches the three days prior to the opening ceremony. The city will be responsible for planning activities for the athletes to introduce them to the community and help spread the word about the games. Carson was selected as a Host Town due to its diversity, its lodging and other accommodations and sports practice facilities, and its recreation and entertainment offerings for the athletes, among other criteria.
Participating in the Special Olympics has been a life-changing experience for Martinez.
“The way I became a [Special Olympics] athlete was through the wonderful world of art. After I joined Special Olympics, it totally changed my life,” said Martinez. “It gave me the chance to make new and exciting friends, like Mr. Shumard. It’s really exciting that we get to welcome the 7,000 athletes. I jumped for joy when L.A. was awarded to host the next World Games.”
Shumard explained that the vision of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver has been realized, in part due to the organization’s ability to change lives through the simple power of sports, and to change communities that come in contact with World Games athletes.
“Almost 200 million people around the world have intellectual disabilities. [Changed] perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities as valued members of our communities is one of the great things that comes out of our tremendous movement,” said Shumard. “The Special Olympics has the ability to transform the lives of athletes, like Marco, as they experience good health, build courage and determination, and most importantly, experience joy. …This is our opportunity in Southern California to showcase our hospitality, our cultural diversity, and spread the message of inclusion and acceptance to every corner of our community.”
Following Shumard’s remarks, Martinez presented the official World Games flag to the Carson City Council, Provost Junn, who accepted it on behalf of CSUDH, and Mayor Dear. The mayor and council in turn presented a proclamation to Martinez on behalf of the World Games and the Key to the City.
“The City of Carson embraces the opportunity to have a role in the Special Olympics World Games and provide a meaningful and memorable experience for the athletes, coaches and volunteers while we showcase our diverse community,” said Dear. “We in Carson are delighted to join the family of communities that are Host Towns for the World Games in 2015, and it’s really an honor for us to have Marco’s fellow athletes come here. Carson is a city that is very diverse–the most ethnically diverse medium-sized city in California–and we’re proud to be home to a campus as diverse as California State University, Dominguez Hills.”
Cal State Dominguez Hills is no stranger to opening its doors to athletes or hosting Olympic events, according to Junn.
The university housed athletes for the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, and the original Olympic Velodrome at CSUDH was built to provide the cycling venue for the ’84 games. After the games ended, the velodrome continued to be used as a sports and entertainment venue until it was demolished in 2003 to make way for the StubHub Center. To replace it, the Velo Sports Center, an indoor velodrome and U.S. Olympic team training center, was built in 2004.
“We at CSU Dominguez Hills look forward to showcasing our campus and community to our chosen country delegation. And we are eagerly waiting to find out which country that will be,” said Junn. “We will be hosting roughly 100 athletes and coaches here…It will be much more meaningful and heartwarming for us because we will have a personal connection with them as they live with us and our students. This is an extremely exciting once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Martinez wrapped up the press conference by thanking the Carson City Council for being a Host Town, and to say, “The world is coming. Are you?”