On Friday morning last 4 busses carrying 152 Venezuelan Special Olympic Athletes and their Coaches left Castlebar for Clongowes Wood College-the base for the Venezuelan delegation for the duration of the 2003 Special Olympic games. They were seen off by host town committee members, volunteers, NTDI trainees and staff of the TF and Lough Lannagh Village. The group had been in Castlebar since Monday 16th June and had enjoyed 5 days of local hospitality organised by the Host Town Committee.
The highlight of the delegations stay in Castlebar was on Wednesday evening when following a special mass of welcome in the Holy Rosary Church the delegation paraded through the town. Hundreds of local people turned out to see the parade, which was led by a flag party from the 18th Infantry Battalion. It was a very colourful parade with local sporting organisations and vintage cars also participating. Music for the parade was supplied by the Balla Pipe Band and Castlebar Town band in addition to bands from Breaffy NS, Scoil Raifteiri, St. Angela’s NS, St Patrick’s BNS and Snugboro NS. The falling rain failed to dampen the enthusiastic spirit of the watching crowd as the parade made its way up Ellison Street and on to The Mall where it then dispersed. The delegation continued on to the Travellers Friend Hotel where following dinner the group were treated to an evening of disco and salsa dancing.
The following day Thursday saw a challenge basketball match between members of the Venezuelan Basketball Team and Castlebar Basketball Club. An Sportlann was packed to capacity as the Venezuelan delegation, host town volunteers and local people came to cheer on the teams. It was a very close match with the home team narrowly beating the Venezuelans 74-71. That evening Breaffy House Hotel was the venue for a buffet dinner featuring the best of local produce for a Taste of Mayo. The enthusiastic athletes then bopped the evening away to music by the Denis McCalmont Band. The evening concluded with a fantastic fireworks display eliciting many oohs and aahs from the surprised athletes. The athletes departed for Dublin on Friday morning relaxed and rested after their stay in Castlebar and leaving many new friends behind!