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Hundreds of athletes arrive in Waterloo Region for Special Olympics

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The 2024 Special Olympics Ontario Spring Games have arrived in Waterloo Region.

More than 750 athletes from across the province have travelled to the region to compete in five sports: basketball, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, swimming, and 10-pin bowling.

The opening ceremonies took place at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Waterloo Memorial Recreation Complex following swimming and rhythmic gymnastics events earlier in the afternoon.

The games were a long time coming, after the region was set to host the games in 2020 before they were abruptly cancelled due to the pandemic.

"The Waterloo Regional Police Service is honoured to host the 2024 Spring Games and to help showcase the hard work and incredible talent of these athletes," Constable John Burke said via a news release. Burke will be acting as the Games Manager on behalf of WRPS. “We have witnessed firsthand the dedication and commitment the athletes have towards their sport, and we are excited to watch them compete and to help turn their dreams into reality."

This is the first provincial games to come to the region, with 35 local athletes representing the area as well.

"It takes a lot of dedication, training, and eating healthy," said Peter Snider of the KW Raptors, who play their first game Friday. "We want to win because it's in our hometown."

Around 2,500 athletes, coaches, staff, volunteers, and spectators will be taking part over the weekend, with an estimated $3.5 million in economic activity coming to the area as well.

"It's great for local businesses because you get this concentrartion of people that are coming in," said Allister Scorgie, director of sport hosting for Explore Waterloo Region. "Good for the hotels, good for restaurants, good for retail."

Each event at the Ontario Spring Games holds major implications on qualifying for the Special Olympics National Summer Games in 2026 and the World Summer Games in Chile the following year.

A schedule of events, including opening and closing ceremonies, can be found online.

This comes as Brantford, Brant County, and Six Nations prepares to host the summer games next year.

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