Deaf Sports Ireland has kicked off the year by beginning preparations for this July’s Summer Deaflympics, which will be held in Sofia, Bulgaria. The Irish Deaf Men’s football team have already qualified for the games, after a penalty shoot out win over Germany, last September.
Other Irish teams hoping to qualify include badminton, tennis and swimming. Altogether, there are 18 sports included in the Deaflympics. The cost of sending these athletes to compete in Bulgaria is substantial, estimated at roughly €100,000 for 50 competitors. The Irish Sports Council (ISC) Core Grant will cover some of the costs and the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) will also provide some financial support. However, in order to compete, these athletes will still depend on private donations.
The Summer Deaflympics were first held in Paris in 1924 as the International Silent Games, a full 22 years before the Paralympics, rendering them the second oldest multiple sporting event worldwide. Four years ago, records were broken when 10,000 volunteers were involved and 4081 people participated in the games. This included officials as well as athletes, and it is expected that this record will be broken once again this summer.
The Deaflympics and Paralympics are very distinct from one another and whilst the Paralympics boasts many categories, none are specifically aimed at Deaf athletes. The Deaflympics events cannot be guided by sounds, ruling out the use of whistles, bullhorns and gunshots. Other signals are used, for example, in football tournaments the referee waves a flag.
Some Deaf competitors feel that they would have an unfair physical advantage in the Paralympics, while for others the importance lies in the cultural distinction between the two sporting events. The Deaflympics are also more inclusive for Deaf athletes who will not be isolated socially from other athletes through a language barrier.
For more information, contact:
Communications and fundraising assistant, Deaf Sports Ireland