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Coast cities to host Special Olympic athletes

REGION — Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas have agreed to collaborate and serve as a host town during the 2015 Special Olympics World Games, which will be held in Los Angeles in July 2015.

With more than 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing 177 countries in 25 events at 27 Los Angeles venues, it will be the largest event hosted by Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

Opening ceremonies are scheduled for July 25 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and Athlete Villages at the University of Southern California and University of California Los Angeles.

Three days prior to that approximately 100 cities and towns in Southern California, from San Diego to San Luis Obispo, will host delegations from around the world.

Coming in early will allow the athletes to acclimate to the local culture and climate.

Del Mar, Solana Beach and Encinitas will be called the North County Host Town and will be assigned one delegation — typically 70 athletes and 30 coaches — that will participate in social and cultural activities unique to the area.

San Diego is using a regional approach, with County Supervisor Dave Roberts, a Solana Beach resident, taking the lead to coordinate the North County Host Town.

Collaborating in South County are Coronado, National City and Chula Vista, while El Cajon, La Mesa, Santee and Lemon Grove are expected to make up the East County partnership.

Dawn O’Leary, director of the Host Town Program organizing committee, said lodging — especially in Southern California in the middle of summer — and a chairman for the area committee are the most difficult to find, but both have been secured.

California State University San Marcos will house the delegations at no cost.

Representatives said Roberts’ office has also secured transportation.

Host towns will be acknowledged in signage at venues and listed on the 2015 Special Olympics World Games website that has worldwide exposure.

Each host town also will have its own web and Facebook Fan pages for promotion and recognition.

A host town committee, with Lindsey Masukawa from Roberts’ office serving as chairwoman, will be formed to help coordinate transportation, training, public relations, volunteer staffing and language services.

As participants, the cities will allow the use of their logo for fundraising and marketing and free access to city facilities for athletes to practice and for cultural and welcoming events.

City staff will also help plan and host activities for the three days.

Costs to the city are expected to be primarily indirect, mostly for staff time. Roberts’ office and the Lions Club International will cover most if not all other costs, the staff reports state.

The World Games have not been in the United States for 16 years and likely won’t be held in Southern California “again in our lifetimes,” O’Leary said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

O’Leary said the goal of the Host Town Program is to “broaden the reach of the World Games to a much bigger area outside of Los Angeles and share the experience with more people.”

“It’s also a great way to unite your own community,” O’Leary said. “But I think the real benefit to the city is an opportunity to really promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.”

Delegation assignments will be made in November. Requests to host specific cities can be make but there are no guarantees, O’Leary said.

Solana Beach was the first city to sign on, agreeing to participate during the Sept. 10 meeting. Del Mar gave its approval as part of the consent calendar, with no discussion, at the Sept. 15 meeting.

In Encinitas, where council members agreed to take part during their meeting two days later, there was a requirement added that staff time be accounted for.

“I think we should be gracious and generous to make our city available to them,” Councilwoman Lisa Shaffer said. “I completely support doing this but we want to do it responsibly.”

Votes to participate were unanimous in all three cities.