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"In a city full of stars" Special Olympians will stand out in Los Angeles in 2015

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image Los Angeles awarded 2015 Special Olympic Summer World Games (Photo Credit/Rene Macura)

A year ago, the Special Olympics were looking for applicants to host their 2015 World Games.  On Wednesday, Los Angeles was selected over a bid from South Africa to stage the Games.

"It was just a chance conversation," Patrick McClenahan, Chief of the LA 2015 bid and organizing committee told GamesBids.com (GB) as he explained the inception of the idea to host the Games for a second time.

"We're looking at 2015, any chance you guys would be interested?", he described Special Olympics International officials asking him at the Southern California Law Enforcement Torch Run last October - an event that raises funds for the regional Special Olympics organization.

Then he approached his partners and sponsors.

"We've got to do this, this would be fantastic.

"All of the sudden I had a bid committee put together in about two weeks, including the mayor, and four athletes and there are about 20 people on the bid committee."

It was during "an amazing four days" when the selection committee visited Los Angeles in March that McClenahan and his team were able to really differentiate their bid from the competitor in South Africa. They were hosted at private receptions including one at the Mayor's home and then were "surprised" at a Lakers basketeball game.  Between the first and second quarters, eight special Olympians who were headed to the 2011 World Games in Athens were honored at center court and given a loud ovation from the fans.

"In one fell swoop to have those athletes down there as stars of the show in front of 18,000 people at a Lakers game spoke volumes to the selection committee and that's what we had in mind," McClenahan explained to GB.

"In a city full of movie stars and sports stars, the athletes are going to be the stars of the show.

"L.A. will create the world stage where the athletes can perform, show their skills and courage and determination and sportsmanship and as a result of that people come in contact with them and their perceptions change that leads to an awareness that leads to more inclusion and acceptance into the community."

Now that the bid is won, McClenahan has been appointed Chief of the organizing committee and admits lots of work remains ahead.

"Now we take a bid and turn it into a business plan."

MClenahan has a 24-year-old daughter with cerebral palsy and her participation in an art day-program has inspired him to dream big for LA 2015.

"We want to do an international art and music festival celebrating the gifts of people with intellectual disabilities; that's bringing in the cultural segment of our city.

"Those are the kinds of things that we're tying along with sporting events, because it's much more than sporting events - the Special Olympics."

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