Launceston is set to host some of Australia’s best athletes over the next fours years as the Australian Special Olympics descends on the city, and region.
The announcement that Launceston would host both the Junior National Games in 2020 and the National Games in 2022 came Wednesday morning in a press conference held by Special Olympics chief executive Corene Strauss, Premier Will Hodgman, and City of Launceston mayor Albert van Zetten.
Ms Strauss was excited by the announcement and what she described as a massive decision by the board.
The host city decision was a tight one featuring many large and attractive cities across the country, but Launceston was chosen – in part – for its infrastructure, Ms Strauss said.
She also commended the city as one trying to embrace and demonstrate inclusion.
For too long people with intellectual disability have been marginalised. They face injustice everywhere.
“This city and this state has said we want to take four years of Special Olympics and use our athletes as ambassadors and teachers of tolerance and acceptance.”
Mr Hodgman said it was a wonderful opportunity to shine a light on ability, not disability.
The state government will provide $500,000 in funding through Events Tasmania to support the events in Launceston.
The City of Launceston council is also providing funding, with $100,000 being put towards the event.
Alderman van Zetten described the announcement as an enormous coup for the city, and thanked the team behind the successful bid.
“You’ve chosen the best city in Tasmania and you’ve chosen the best city in Australia,” he said.
“We will show you this.”
Launceston will not host the games alone either, with the city also working with counterparts in Meander Valley and West Tamar councils.
About 12 sports will fill the event schedules including athletics, swimming, basketball, bowling, boche, equestrian, and gymnastics.
For the first time in Australia – and one of the first in the world – dance sport will also feature.
The games are expected to bring around $5.6 million to the local economy.
Special Olympics Australia said they were looking to bring Australians to Launceston and Tasmania through the event to engage with the community.
“I think it’s really important that the mainland finally comes to Tasmania and and that Tasmania shows the mainland the beauty of inclusion,” Ms Strauss said.
This is certainly the aim of Tourism Northern Tasmania.
Chief executive Chris Griffin said the team was in celebration mode after a nine months of work on the bid.
“It should be celebration mode for the entire city, too.”
And, Mr Griffin said, a celebration of social inclusion above economic benefits.
Daniel Thomson, a basketballer and one of the game’s athlete ambassadors, said he was very proud the event was coming to Launceston.
“It’s going to be very excited for other Tasmanian athletes.”
Approximately 2000 athletes are expected to attend the 2022 National Games and another 650 participants at the 2020 Junior Games.
Along with support teams, families, volunteers and spectators the number of people converging on the city over the next four years is expected to top 6000 people.