The 2015 games, the area’s biggest sporting event since the 1984 Summer Olympics, will bring a spike in tourism

By Gary Walker

Special Olympics World Games Global Messenger Debi Anderson and Culver City athlete Caelyn Griffith Photo by Fabian Lewkowicz / Special Olympics

Special Olympics World Games Global Messenger Debi Anderson and Culver City athlete Caelyn Griffith
Photo by Fabian Lewkowicz / Special Olympics

Santa Monica will serve as a host city for global visitors attending the 2015 Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles, officials with the games announced last Thursday.

Representatives of LA2015, the organizing committee for the games, say the 2015 Special Olympics World Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world next year and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Summer Olympic Games.

More than 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 177 countries are expected to participate in contests taking place from July 25 to Aug. 2 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Athletes will compete in more than 30 categories, including basketball, soccer, gymnastics, roller skating, softball, bowling, swimming, snowboarding and tennis.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics has grown worldwide to include activities involving more than four million athletes with mental disabilities. Eunice Kennedy Shiver’s eldest son, Bobby Shriver, is a former Santa Monica mayor.

Flanked by city officials at ICE, the city’s temporary winter skating rink, LA2015 President and CEO Patrick McClanahan spoke about the significance of being a host city for the games.

“The host town program will not only create lasting memories for these athletes and coaches from around the world, but leave a lasting legacy for the communities who are opening their doors, hearts and minds to host these inspiring athletes,” McClanahan said.

Caelyn Griffith, 19, of Culver City will be competing in the Special Olympics as a gymnast.

“My favorite thing in gymnastics is the floor routine,” she said. “I’ve been having a great time with my roommate and my buddies.”

Griffith’s mother, Clausine Griffith-Honda, said her daughter has competed in Special Olympics since she was 8 and enjoys the floor routine because of its dance element. She’s noticed distinct changes in Caelyn since she began competing.

“I would definitely say she’s more confident and more independent. They get to travel every summer, and at the age of 8 or 9 to be able to go away from your parents for a couple of nights can instill some independence,” Griffith-Honda said.

Being a host town allows Santa Monica to showcase many of its resident and tourist attractions. Special Olympics visitors will see the Annenberg Community Beach House, the Third Street Promenade, Montana Avenue, the Santa Monica Pier, Main Street, the solar-powered Pacific Park Ferris Wheel and the original Muscle Beach, said Misti Kerns, president and CEO of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Special Olympics Senior Vice President of Media Operations Steven Vanderpool said the organization will announce in January which international delegation will visit Santa Monica.

“There’s a feeling of excitement here and it’s going to grow.  Santa Monica is in for a big treat next year,” said Debi Anderson, a Special Olympics board member.