In a fleeting visit to Tauranga the Flame of Hope hit local streets on the weekend to mark the onset of the Special Olympics National Summer Games.
The visit is part of a national event, the Law Enforcement Torch run, which sees officers and athletes carry the Flame of Hope to the opening ceremony.
Tauranga Special Olympics committee member and swim coach Pat Wakelin says despite the rain, around 40 keen athletes showed up in support of the event alongside six police officers and various members of public.
“It was great we had a good turn out and the police were excellent,” says Pat. “One officer assisted one elderly competitor through the entire run, she held her hand and walked with her the whole way.
“It was much the same as the run we did four years ago, police were very interactive and a lot of people came out on the streets, they cheered and clapped.
“The mayor was also a part of it and he was waiting at the end under the canopy in the rain.”
Mayor Greg Brownless says the event was a success.
“It was great, there was a lovely atmosphere even though it was a little bit rainy and the participants in it were very enthusiastic and excited about going to the summer games in Wellington.
“I was able to speak to them briefly at the end, just urging them on to do their best.
“We enjoyed a few laughs, where I let them know I was glad it was them doing all the running, he says. “I wouldn't have gotten anywhere near the distance they managed.
“They all quite enjoyed when I told them how tired I was from ‘watching' them all run.”
Mayor Greg says he is a big supporter of Special Olympics.
“Years ago I was patron for the local Special Olympics, I no longer am but I have taken an interest for a number of years.”
Tauranga is one of 32 stops around the country, the torch run will now touch ground in Rotorua, beginning at Lakefront Drive at 11am, with ten stops left before it lands in Wellington.
Pat says local athletes are getting ready to meet the torch there.
“We've got two more Saturdays of training then we are off,” she says.
Sixty four athletes participating in swimming, basketball, athletics, tenpin bowling, indoor bowls, powerlifting, and golf along with 21 support volunteers will be heading to the Special Olympics National Summer Games in Wellington on November 27 to December 1.
“All athletes would like to thank sponsors for their generous support, namely the Longmuir Trust who have supported teams making it possible for them to make it to the games.”
The Special Olympics National Games are held every four years and is the largest event for athletes with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand.