14 Aug 2017


Sixteen LMA Ambassadors, led by LMA Chairman Howard Wilkinson, volunteered their support to the recent Special Olympics GB’s National Games in Sheffield, including the Official Special Olympics Torch Run which preceded the main event.

LMA board member Sam Allardyce took part in the lighting of the Special Olympics Torch, named the Flame of Hope, at the memorial to Dr William Penny Brookes - the man credited with the inception of the modern Olympics Games - at the Holy Trinity Church in Wilmore Street, Much Wenlock, North Shropshire. The torch then embarked on a tour of England before arriving in Sheffield for the opening ceremony on 8th August 2017.

Following the lighting ceremony Allardyce said: “It’s important that people with learning difficulties get the opportunity to get involved in sport.

“To see so many people looking eager to be involved in the games after a lot of hard training and a lot of dedication is fantastic. You’ve got to give them great credit for that. There’s a great pleasure it gives everybody.

“People of all abilities should be able to compete in sports. We have to go a long way and look behind the scenes at the tremendous organisation and support that brings an event like this together, to give these youngsters this great opportunity.”

A number of LMA Ambassadors including Howard Wilkinson, Gareth Southgate, Lawrie McMenemy MBE, Dave Bassett, Frank Clark, Owen Coyle, John Duncan, Darren Ferguson, Chris Kamara, Mark Lillis, Jamie Peacock, Nigel Pearson, John Pemberton, Chris Wilder and Danny Wilson were also present during the Games to assist with the torch’s journey to Sheffield, witness the various sporting competitions being contested and present medals to successful athletes.

Following the games, LMA Chairman Howard Wilkinson said: “Sixteen ambassadors of the LMA gave very generously of their time this week to attend The Special Olympics GB National Games 2017, held in Sheffield. In hindsight, everyone will wish they could have given more. They quickly discovered that this event is not about winners, because each and every participant wins, including those who organise, supervise, empathise, support and care.

“These games allow the competitors to step outside their normal world in so many ways. They experience a week where they are the stars, the centre of attention, where they are applauded for simply trying. At the opening ceremony, when the weather was wet enough and cold enough to dampen the ardour of Bear Grylls, their spirit, sheer enthusiasm and innocent joy was applauded for four hours non-stop. This is a world so far removed from the experiences of many of them, much of the time.

“People with learning difficulties were born with that condition, it is the only world they have ever known. Around 50% of those born with special needs, live below the poverty line. Every one of our members present this week saw what special needs means, they also saw how the right environment can make each of those with learning difficulties feel really special. In addition to what is made available by external funding, nearly £400 has to be found externally for each individual to participate. This money has to be raised by their club, supported by their family and friends.

“Hopefully, events like this can raise awareness in the right places and these exceptional people, and all who care for them, can be awarded the funding that they really deserve.”

Speaking on behalf of Special Olympics GB, Chris Hull added: “The extraordinary help of the LMA towards the Special Olympics GB’s National Games over the course of a fortnight has helped to raise the awareness of our athletes to unprecedented levels.

“Sam Allardyce’s appearance at the start of the Torch Run; Gareth’s incredible performance with 1,000 athletes, Dave Bassett’s awesome Q&A; Darren Ferguson’s appearance hours before the start of the League season and the fun injected by Howard Wilkinson and Nigel Pearson during the games were just a few of the highlights of a very special partnership between the LMA and Special Olympics GB.”


What is the Special Olympics GB’s National Games

Special Olympics GB is the largest registered charity providing year round sports training and competition opportunities for people with intellectual (learning) disabilities.  This event was the largest disability sports event of 2017 and offered free entry to the public for all of the sporting action.

The Special Olympics GB’s National Games saw in the region of 2,600 athletes with intellectual (learning) disabilities take part in 20 sports events between 8 – 11 August in Sheffield. 

Around 1.5 million people in our country have a learning disability – 2% of the population and is the World’s biggest disability.

LMA Vice President Lawrie McMenemy MBE also serves as President of Special Olympics GB.