The University of Ulster has been appointed as one of only three official research collaborating centres for this summer’s Special Olympics.
Ulster has been chosen as the Europe/Eurasia region research centre for the games which take place from 25 June to 4 July in Athens, Greece.
The collaborating centre at Ulster will now take its place alongside the University of Illinois as a regional research institute and the University of Boston/Massachusetts as a Global Research Collaborating Centre for Special Olympics International.
Over the last two years, Ulster researchers have secured over $300,000 in research funding from the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention to undertake work with athletes with intellectual disabilities aligned to Special Olympics.
The new centre will be located in the Sport and Exercise Sciences Research Institute on the Jordanstown campus. The co-directors are Dr David Hassan and Professor Roy McConkey.
Professor McConkey said “Special Olympics are a world-wide movement working for the social inclusion through sport of people with intellectual disabilities. It is a great honour for Ulster to join with this endeavour and we look forward to forging links throughout continental Europe”.
The Centre will be launched on Tuesday, 12 April at 5.30 pm in the Sports Centre, Jordanstown with special guest, Mary Davis, Regional President and Managing Director Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia.
Speaking ahead of the launch Ms Davis said: “Throughout the past two years we have developed a very good relationship with the University of Ulster. The group around Professor McConkey showed an outstanding understanding of the Special Olympics programming, they brought in new ideas and perspectives and were always ready to adjust to the specific situation of the work with people with special needs”.
The research projects underway include the impact of team sports on the social inclusion of athletes beyond the playing field and the contribution of coaches in preparing athletes for the World Games. Both projects involve links with researchers in six European countries as well as in South Africa, Costa Rica and India.