Seattle will host the next Special Olympics USA Games in July 2018.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and others presented the news late last week to a crowded room of Special Olympics fans and athletes, saying planning is already underway for the roughly one-week competition that will attract thousands of visitors from across the country.

“We’re thrilled that our region has been selected to host the games,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said to the crowd.

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Added Seattle Deputy Mayor Kate Joncas: “Seattle is no stranger to big events, and this, I think, is going to be the biggest … sports event to be here since the Goodwill Games” in 1990.

The Special Olympics USA Games are held every four years; the most recent were in New Jersey in 2014.

Beth Knox, president and CEO of the USA Games, said leaders in Washington began conversations last summer at the national level about making Seattle the 2018 host.

“We’re full-bore, now, planning all aspects for the games,” she said.

Since 1968, when Chicago hosted the first International Special Olympics, the competitions have become widely celebrated as part of the largest global movement for empowering people with intellectual disabilities. The 2018 event will mark the games’ 50th year.

About 3,500 athletes from all 50 states will compete in 16 individual and team sports, such as powerlifting and gymnastics, at facilities throughout the Seattle area July 1-6. The majority of events will be at the University of Washington. Transit officials will be working with games officials to mitigate traffic impacts.

“We expect mass-transit connections — buses connecting with light rail — will play a key role as visitors attend events and explore the region,” said Metro Transit spokesman Jeff Switzer.

The games are estimated to generate $50 million in tourism revenue, require the help of 10,000 local volunteers and attract 50,000 spectators, officials said. The competitions will be free to the public.

Jennifer Cohen, the university’s interim athletic director, said Special Olympics USA is the largest organization to partner with the school for an event, and athletics officials now are working on planning accommodations for the athletes, such as training clinics.

“UW is thrilled to be able to serve as home base,” she said.

© 2016 The Seattle Times
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

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