Today, Special Olympics Ontario announced that the City of Toronto will host the first-ever Invitational Youth Games. The event is scheduled to take place on May 14-17, 2019.
An estimated 2,500 participants from around the world, including school-aged athletes, ages 13-21, from Canada the U.S., will join in these ground-breaking games where athletes with intellectual disabilities will compete against one another and alongside their mainstream peers through Unified sports. Toronto Police Service has been named the host organization for the games.
“Toronto is known as a world-class destination for culture, sports, and tourism and as a welcoming city that embodies and embraces diversity and inclusion. It’s incredibly fitting these games will bring together our great city, across multiple venues, in celebration of athletes from around the world,” said Mayor John Torry about the Youth Games.
Modelled after the highly successful Ontario-wide School Championship Program, first launched by Special Olympics Ontario in 2011, the IYG will serve as a landmark event during the 50th anniversary year of the Special Olympics movement (June 2018-June 2019).
“Special Olympics Ontario is supporting young athletes in developing their skills to lead a healthy active life and meet new friends along the way,” explains Honourable Daiene Vernile, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “The investment we’re making will build on the Special Olympics legacy of improving the overall quality of life for people through the transformative power of sport.”
The games will feature five sports: basketball, bocce, floor hockey, track and field and soccer. All five will offer two types of team divisions: a traditional division, where athletes on the team have an intellectual disability, and, a unified division, where athletes with and without and intellectual disability will have the opportunity to compete on the same team. All sports will be broken down into multiple ability divisions, where athletes will have the opportunity to compete against those of similar ability levels. In addition to sports competition, athletes can also take part in the Healthy Athletes program, a worldwide initiative that provides screening and education across 7 different health disciplines, with the overall goal of increasing the health and well-being of Special Olympics athletes.
Enabled by support from the Province of Ontario, the City of Toronto, and host organization the Toronto Police Service, the IYG will showcase Toronto on the world stage.
“For decades law enforcement in Toronto, and around the world, has been an active advocate, fundraiser, and supporter of Special Olympics,” said Mark Saunders, Chief of Police and Honorary Chair of Youth Games. “ It is with the utmost pride that the Toronto Police Service will host these games and bring their powerful unifying message to life.”
Forecast show that the games will contribute an estimated $7M* in economic activity for the City/GTA while also creating a first-of-its-kind sporting event. In addition to community building, the games are poised to become part of a rich history of innovation emanating out of the province beginning with the truly ground-breaking research by Dr. Frank Hayden, that paved the way for what is now a global movement.
The games will officially open at Metro Toronto Convention Centre May 14, 2019. Admission to all events is free. Details on how to attend an event(s) will be available via the games website.
|*||Source: Special Olympics Ontario: 2019 Sport Tourism Economic Assessment Model (Steam) Economic Impact Study|