Special Olympics Great Britain, the charity which helps children and adults with intellectual (learning) disabilities take part in year-round sports coaching and competition activities, has today received a huge funding boost from the government.

Special Olympics GB currently has 150 local clubs that serve 8,000 intellectually disabled athletes with the help of its dedicated army of 4,000 volunteers across England, Scotland and Wales.

This new and historic £2 million backing will go towards supporting and improving the following important areas of Special Olympics GB’s work:

• Sending 115 Special Olympics GB athletes to Los Angeles to represent the country at the World Summer Games this summer which will commence with an opening ceremony held on 25th July 2015 in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum – the site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games. The opening ceremony is expected to attract 80,000 spectators with the Honorary Chair of the Games being President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. The event, which will run from July 25th until 2nd August 2015, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world in 2015. It will also be the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

• To support Special Olympics GB’s National Summer Games in Sheffield in 2017. The Deputy Prime Minister will announced the investment in Sheffield today (Friday 27 March 2015). Special Olympics GB expects the Sheffield games to be the largest ever – with over 2,000 athletes expected to take part in front of 10,000 family, friends and supporters. The event is free to all members of the public.

• In addition, the funding will enable the charity to significantly strengthen its current infrastructure and help create new inclusive clubs, develop competition pathways and launch an innovative new Unified Schools project which will target 25,000 new young participants over the next 3 years and provide a clear pathway for young people with ID to pursue sporting opportunities after they leave school, ensuring they remain physically active in the future.

Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, said: “I’m immensely proud to be supporting Special Olympics GB to actively recruit, inspire and empower people with intellectual disabilities to reach for the finishing line in their favourite sport. Over a million people in the UK have an intellectual disability, and sport is a key component in helping to tackle stigma, improve health and broaden their horizons with new opportunities. I saw first-hand the benefits of the games when I met Nicholas, a Special Olympics athlete from Sheffield who went on to compete for the GB Team as an athlete in the 2014 Special Olympics European Games last year. This funding is yet another example of this government’s work to build a fairer society and provide opportunity for everyone. After successfully staging the Tour De France, Sheffield will build on that legacy by hosting the Special Olympics National Summer Games, and will cement our city’s proud reputation as a centre of sporting excellence, boosting tourism and bringing thousands of visitors to the area.”

Culture Secretary, Sajid Javid, said: “Britain has a great tradition of supporting disability sport, delivering the most successful Paralympics ever at London 2012. I’m committed to ensuring that more people than ever enjoy the benefits of sport. This funding will ensure the Special Olympics continues to go from strength to strength both in Los Angeles and Sheffield.”

CEO of Special Olympics GB, Karen Wallin said: “I want to sincerely thank the Deputy Prime Minister and Culture Secretary for their recognition of and investment in, our life changing sports programme. Special Olympics GB has a vision to ensure that it becomes the recognised leader in the provision of sport to all people with intellectual disabilities and allowing them to achieve their full potential in life through meaningful inclusion. We are committed to driving positive actions for young disabled people in sport within both education and community settings and we have set ourselves an ambitious goal to ensure that our infrastructure and programmes have the ability to reach every child and young person with intellectual disabilities in Great Britain by 2018. The investment received today from government will ensure that we achieve this goal and more.”