SANTA MARIA, Calif. - The biggest sporting event in the world next year will be held in Los Angeles and will receive a big boost from Santa Maria and several other cities around Southern California.
During a ceremony on Tuesday at the Historic Santa Maria Inn, representatives with Special Olympics officially announced Santa Maria had been selected to become a "Host Town" for the upcoming 2015 World Games. The distinction allows communities to host athletes, coaches, staff and families from other countries for several days before the start of competition.
Santa Maria, which has long history of supporting Special Olympics, will welcome about 100 athletes from countries still to be determined. In addition to training at local facilities at Santa Maria area schools, the athletes will also be treated to several functions that offer a glimpse into the Santa Maria Valley lifestyle.
Among the activities already planned is a traditional "Santa Maria Style" barbeque. The "Host Town" program allows the World Games to be as much a cultural experience for the athletes as it is an athletic competition.
Alex Posada, the Director of Santa Maria Department of Recreation and Parks, who also serves at Area Director of Special Olympics for Northern Santa Barbara County, says about $40,000 will need to be raised to fund the cost of the program. Posada said the money will come from private donations, businesses, non-profit organizations, churches, service clubs and other sources. Posada believes the athletes who arrive in Santa Maria will leave with a memorable experience. "When they come here, they're going to see what a great community we have here, how generous the people are and what great facilities we have in our town to be able to help them train and get ready for the games," said Posada.
Several other cities in the region will also take part in the "Host Town" program including Long Beach, Manhattan Beach, Burbank, Palm Springs and several others. In addition, a handful of cities on the Central Coast will also take part including Santa Barbara, Solvang, San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande.
The "Host Town" program will be held from July 21-24, 2015. The Special Olympics World Games will begin in Los Angeles on July 25, 2015 with opening ceremonies at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. With over 7,000 athletes from 177 countries expected to participate, it will be the biggest sporting event in Southern California since the 1984 Olympic Games.