‘We love you very much’, Neita-Headley tells Special Olympians on return to island
Natalie Neita-Headley, minister with responsibility of sport, has lauded the country's Special Olympics movement as brand Jamaica contributors.
The athletes returned home with 29 medals, admiration, and respect from the Special Olympics World Games 2015 in Los Angeles, the United States, which was hosted from July 25 to August 2.
An official welcome celebration and press conference were held yesterday at the Pineapple Room at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston.
"I pledge my continued support on behalf of the prime minister, the Honourable Portia Simpson Miller, and the people of Jamaica," Neita-Headley said as she greeted the athletes.
"We pledge to continue to give our unwavering support to the Special Olympics movement, and thank you for what you have done for Brand Jamaica. We love you very much," Neita-Headley continued.
"The input of the private sector in a partnership with Government is critical for the advancement of sport. Give Digicel a round of applause," she said, while speaking to athletes, team members, and supporters present.
The telecommunications company sponsored the team to the recently concluded Games, and its chief executive officer, Sean Latty, also paid tribute to the Jamaica representatives.
"Congratulations to the entire Special Olympics Jamaica team on their remarkable performance at the World Games. Their determination to succeed is quite admirable. We hope that this is an inspiration to everyone, especially during this period of our Independence celebrations," said Latty.
"Digicel has been a proud sponsor of the Special Olympics team since 2001, and we remain committed to do everything we can to build awareness and show Jamaica just how extraordinary they are," the Digicel CEO added. "We are, therefore, very proud to have been a part of their journey to the World Games and even more excited with their achievements and the haul of 29 medals."
Of the 69 members, Jamaica earned 29 medals from track and field, aquatics, basketball, badminton, volleyball, football, female futsal, and bocce. Track and field accounted for 13 medals.
While proud of her team, Special Olympics of Jamaica president Lorna Bell said, "The medal haul is important, but for us in Special Olympics, it is not something that is really important."
She described the event as a life-changing experience for the athletes, who represented Jamaica in front of 80,000 people and other global audiences.
"For the closing ceremony, we were excited to know that we (Jamaica) got the best seat in the house and that the Shriver family concentrated so much on Jamaica. That was really a tear jerker for us, and we were the envy of all the other countries, especially the Caribbean countries," she told The Gleaner.
Tim Shriver is president of Special Olympics' world governing body.