T.O. up for Special Olympics

All eyes - and cameras - remain on the thrills and glamor of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.But, out of the spotlight, another Olympic contest of sorts is under way to see which city, Toronto or Oslo, hosts the Seventh...

All eyes – and cameras – remain on the thrills and glamor of the Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway.

But, out of the spotlight, another Olympic contest of sorts is under way to see which city, Toronto or Oslo, hosts the Seventh Special Olympics World Winter Games in 1997.

Lynne Hallinan, co-chair of the Toronto/Collingwood, Ont. bid committee, says since Lake Placid, n.y. has dropped out of the bidding to get the Games, about the only obstacle to Toronto’s bid is funding.

Hallinan says the Norwegian government has promised its complete support if the International Special Olympics Selection Committee, based in Washington, d.c. awards the Games to Oslo.

The Special Olympics, Winter and Summer, are open to the mentally handicapped.

Their originator was Dr. Frank Hayden of McMaster University in Hamilton.

Although Hallinan cautions the commercial opportunities of the Games remain just that for the time being, she says the bid committee has sponsorship plans it is developing.

The decision announcing which city gets the Games is expected in late May.

The top sponsorship price is $450,000 over four years, says Hallinan, which, among other benefits, gives the sponsor product exclusivity.

There are other sponsorship packages in the $200,000 to $400,000 range but these do not confer exclusivity, she says.

About 1,600 athletes from more than 60 countries are expected to take part. A further 3,000 coaches, supporters, staff and family should also attend.

Hallinan says the ages for the Special Winter Olympics athletes range from eight to seniors. Competitors are grouped by age and ability, she says.