President Michael D Higgins will officially open the games

Up to 1,600 athletes are gathering in Dublin today for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics Ireland Games.

It is the first time in 16 years the games have been held in the capital.

The games will run until Sunday, with three full days of competition to look forward to.

President Michael D Higgins will be on hand to officially open the games at this afternoon’s ceremony.

One of the largest sporting events to be held in Ireland this year, athletes who perform particularly well could go on to represent Team Ireland at next year’s Special Olympics World Summer Games in Abu Dhabi. 

Matt English, CEO of Special Olympics Ireland, said it should be an exciting weekend:

“The parade of the athletes into the stadium – which is a hugely exciting part of any opening ceremony – will take place at 6:30pm this evening,” he said.

“Of course it will be the start of an amazing four days of the Ireland games and we are thrilled that President Michael D Higgins will officially open the games.”

The athletes will be supported by 600 coaches, official delegates and 2,500 volunteers.

The Flame of Hope will take pride of place at today’s ceremony.

Torch run events, organised by the Gardaí and PSNI, have been taking place around the country over the past few days – with over 80 Irish schools getting involved in fundraising events.

The schools raised €15,000 through their efforts – which will be invested in Special Olympics programmes providing sport opportunities for children and adults with intellectual disabilities.

There will be a closing ceremony on Sunday to tie off proceedings before athletes travel back to their hometowns and cities across Ireland.