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Local Communities Prepare to Host Special Olympics Athletes

What does the predominately Latino community of Lincoln Heights and mostly Asian city of Monterey Park have in common? Residents in both areas will soon be saying “guten tag” (good day) to a German delegation arriving in the Southland next month for the 2015 Special Olympics World Games.

Lincoln Heights will serve as a host town to nearly 100 athletes, coaches and staff arriving before the July 25 opening ceremony at the Los Angeles Coliseum. The cities of Monterey Park and Alhambra will serve as co-hosts to an additional 100 delegates from Germany.

Lea este artículo en Español: Comunidades se Preparan Para Recibir a Atletas de las Olimpiadas Especiales [1]

Mario Maruffo, vice president of the Lincoln Heights Chamber of Commerce, told EGP that what makes this honor even more special is that neighborhoods like Lincoln Heights are rarely recognized as host sites; host status is usually reserved for cities like Los Angeles, Monterey Park and Alhambra.

An athlete participates in a soccer game during a previous Special Olympics World Games. (Courtesy of the Special Olympics World Games 2015) [2]

An athlete participates in a soccer game during a previous Special Olympics World Games. (Courtesy of the Special Olympics World Games 2015)

“We are just a small community,” a neighborhood in Los Angeles, yet “we were still asked to host,” Maruffo said excitedly. This is going to “put Lincoln Heights on the map.”

From cycling and gymnastics, to kayaking and judo, over 7,000 athletes from more than 170 countries will participate in the Special Olympics Games taking place in the Southland from July 25 through Aug. 2.

The Games were created to promote the acceptance and inclusions of people with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics approached the Chamber –the lead organization in charge of hosting duties in Lincoln Heights – last year, says Maruffo.

Maruffo says the eastside neighborhood is a “perfect fit” for the Special Olympics because the community is home to El ARCA, a large organization devoted to supporting and becoming a home away from home for the developmentally disabled.

National and international delegations are on their way to host towns across the region to give athletes time to acclimate to Southern California’s weather and culture.

Dan Costley, Monterey Park’s recreation director, told EGP that the city is home to a large Chinese population and being able to expose delegates to people from other cultures is the idea behind the host town selection.

“Monterey Park is home to very diverse cultures and will provide something different for the delegates during their trip,” he said.

During their three-day visit, the 170 athletes and 30 support staff will stay in dormitories at Cal State Los Angeles. All three communities will hold special dinners, tours and entertainment for their guests.

In Lincoln Height, the itinerary includes a visit to St. Vincent de Paul and Dodger Stadium, according to Maruffo.

Monterey Park is planning an arts and music festival on July 23. They will also treat their German visitors to an international themed-luncheon. Entertainment will include Japanese Taiko drumming, Hula and cover bands. The three communities will also host a special dinner with the Consulate General of Germany in Los Angeles.

“This is a great opportunity for people to meet some of the participants and have someone to root for and learn something new about another culture,” said Costley.

Hosting duties are not cheap and Monterey Park estimates the cost at $100 per day for each delegate. So far, the city has raised enough money to cover expenses through fundraisers and sponsorships, including banners that will soon be on display throughout the city.

The city council has allocated $10,000 in city funds to cover any expenses not covered by fundraising efforts, but so far, those funds have not been needed, Costley said.

The Special Olympics World Games 2015 is the biggest sporting event to hit Los Angeles since the 1984 Summer Olympic Games when field hockey was played at East Los Angeles College in Monterey Park.

On Monday, L.A. County Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas and Metro and Special Olympics representatives announced that Metro has been named the official transit provider for the Special Olympics. The system of light rail lines and buses has expanded dramatically since the ’84 Olympics, and Metro officials say they will be key to reducing traffic to and from sports venues throughout the county.

 

All three cities and communities are still seeking volunteers to help put provide support at the events. For information on how you can volunteer, call Monterey Park Recreation at (626) 307-1388 or visit www.la2015.org/volunteer [3]

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Twitter @nancyreporting [4]

nmartinez@egpnews.com