This August, the spectacular Special Olympics GB National Summer Games will be held in Sheffield.
Held every four years, it is the flagship Special Olympics event in this country and the largest multi-sports competition for athletes with intellectual (learning) disabilities.
Athletes representing the Northern Region are keen to make the most of the occasion and, with the help of football legend Kevin Keegan, have recorded a song that will be played as they walk out at Sheffield United’s Bramall Lane for the Opening Ceremony.
Kevin was captain of England’s 1982 World Cup squad and at the very heart of singing the song the first time around.
When he heard about the new recording from his friend and former manager, Lawrie McMenemy (President of Special Olympics GB), Kevin was keen to lend his support.
He joined athletes from the Special Olympics Northern Region team in Gateshead to help record the song and a music video they will treasure.
Kevin says: “I think it’s a better song now. And these guys are definitely better singers than the England football team were.
“Sport’s all inclusive, that’s what everyone says. Sometimes you wonder but Special Olympics follows through on that.
“I know all about the Special Olympics through my friend Lawrie McMenemy, and the great work people do around it. How competitive it is and, the main thing, how much fun everyone gets out of it.
“All the different things they’re doing, weight lifting, 50-yard dashes, swimming, football, it’s got everything.
“The national games are at Sheffield this year, so pretty near to where I was born. And the Opening Ceremony is at Bramall Lane so it’s got a nice football feel to it as well.
“Sport’s really the way forward for everybody. It’s something that everyone can do.
“I mean we came second with Newcastle and a lot of people still talk about the team we had. There can only be one winner if there are eight runners. If there are 22 teams in a division, there’s only one team going to win it.
“But the others have got to take part and that’s what these guys are going to do down in Sheffield. I’ll probably order a big van to fetch all the medals back.”
Special Olympics Gateshead Tyne and Wear is part of the Northern region team going to Sheffield and is one of 141 Special Olympics clubs across England, Scotland and Wales.
It aims to ensure people with disabilities can fulfil their sporting aspirations and have the same opportunities as people without disabilities.
Keith Hogan, Chair of Special Olympics Gateshead Tyne and Wear, says: “Our athletes are already incredibly excited about Sheffield. Recording this song with Kevin’s help is the icing on the cake.
“We’re extremely grateful to him helping with the song. Kevin was wonderful, really enthusiastic and interested in what we’re doing here. When he left our athletes were on cloud nine.
“130 athletes have been selected to represent the Northern Region at the Summer Games and they’re all keen to show what they can do on the big stage.
“The competition is a huge challenge and, added to that, many athletes will be staying away from family and carers for the first time. It’s a huge step for them and also a fantastic opportunity to make new friends from across the country.”
Gateshead Special Olympics Tyne and Wear began in Gateshead two years ago and it is a measure of the club’s success that its service provision has been extended into Newcastle, starting in April 2017, creating exciting new opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in the city.
Keith adds: “We’re thrilled to be in a position to welcome even more athletes to join the Special Olympics movement.
“There are established Special Olympics clubs in Sunderland and Northumberland and it’s wonderful to see the organisation growing each year.
“New members may never have taken part in sport before, and being in a group of new people can be a big challenge. We work with each of our members to help improve their physical health and by accessing regular sporting training, they also gain self-confidence and worth.
“It’s important that they have the opportunity to compete but winning means so much more than medals. We’re extremely proud of all our athletes.”
The 10th National Summer Games will see 2,600 athletes compete in 20 sports across a dozen venues in Sheffield between 7th and 12th August.
The Special Olympics’ motto is ‘Let me win, but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt.’
Athletes representing the Northern Region at the National Summer Games come from the areas of Skelton (Cleveland), Sunderland, Northumberland, Teesdale and Gateshead (Tyne and Wear).