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Southland cities to host Special Olympics participants

LOS ANGELES — Pairings have been announced for more than 100 Southern California cities that will host Special Olympic athletes from around the world for the Summer Special Olympics World Games July 25 through Aug. 2.

Alhambra, Monterey Park and Lincoln Heights will host Special Olympics competitors and their families from Germany.

Carson will host participants from the Dominican Republic, Palestine and Turkmenistan.

Cerritos and Lakewood will host competitors from Turkey and Uruguay, while Downey will host people from Ireland, La Mirada will host people from Russia and Whittier will host people from Macau, a small area in China.

Downey is a sister city to Roscommon County in Ireland, birthplace of its namesake, John Gatley Downey.

The 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles will feature more than 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches, a World Games spokesperson said.

Delegates from as many as 170 Special Olympics Programs from around the world will spend three days and nights in communities stretching from San Luis Obispo to San Diego as part of the Host Town program — beginning July 21 — before moving into the Athlete Villages at USC and UCLA on July 24, the spokesperson said.

Additional communities and delegations will be announced in the coming weeks, including the Host Town for Special Olympics Team USA.

The March 5 Host Town pairing announcement followed the successful Head of Delegation Conference that opened with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti greeting the attendees in January.

The opening ceremony of the World Games will be held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on July 25 and televised to a worldwide audience by ESPN.

The Host Town program has been an important element of Special Olympics World Games since 1995, the spokesperson said.

Each Host Town committee is responsible for planning activities for the athletes to introduce them to the community and help spread the word about the Special Olympics.

“The Host Town program gives each community an opportunity to showcase to the world what makes them special, but more importantly to provide citizens with a better understanding of intellectual disabilities that will lead to acceptance and inclusion for all,” said Patrick McClenahan, president and CEO of the Los Angeles Special Olympics Committee.

“We are thankful to all participating Host Towns and their tireless volunteers for opening their doors — and their hearts — to our athletes and coaches,” he said.

With 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries, along with 30,000 volunteers and an anticipated 500,000 spectators, the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015, and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

Honorary chairs of the games are President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Gov. Jerry Brown serving as honorary hosts.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries.

With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 81,000 games and competitions throughout the year.

Founded in 1969 by Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson, Special Olympics Southern California offers opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities to participate in year-round sports training and competition. More than 17,000 athletes and 15,000 coaches and volunteers take part in 12 Olympic-style sports, the spokesperson said.