OLDS — Plans call for Olds & Special Olympics (ODSO) athletes to get back into some programs in a couple of weeks after they were postponed before Christmas due to COVID concerns.
Darren Brown, who coaches four sports for ODSO and serves as the group’s treasurer, says Special Olympics Alberta (SOA) gave its affiliates the green light a few days ago to start up sports programs again.
Before the Christmas break, ODSO athletes had got back into swimming and curling. But start-up in other sports had been postponed to Jan. 17, due to concern about spread of the Omicron COVID-19 variant.
“Special Olympics Alberta has given all affiliates the go ahead to start up our sports programs,” Brown wrote in an email, received on Jan. 17. “For now, our affiliate will start small."
Swimming will start back up on Jan. 30 and will run until April. Seven athletes are expected to participate in that program.
Ice curling will start back up on Jan. 28 with three athletes and will run until early March.
Floor curling will start up on Feb. 7 with four athletes participating. That program will run until the end of March.
Bowling however, is another story.
“Starting up our bowling program (which is our main sport) in February will be dependent if we have enough volunteers who are both vaccinated and have a completed criminal record check," he wrote.
“SOA is requiring affiliates to have a 4-to-1 ratio of athletes to volunteers, but may make an exception for bowling with a 5-to-1 ratio.
“Right now, we only have three volunteers with an approved status, which will limit the number of athletes who can participate in bowling.”
At press time, Brown was also unsure what the status was for skiing.
“I have not received an update from the Drumheller ski coach so I have no information on that program at this time,” he wrote.
Although he hasn't had an opportunity to chat extensively with some ODSO athletes, Brown does know how some are reacting to the news.
"I know some athletes are excited to be able to participate in sports programs again," he wrote. "There are also athletes that are concerned about the risk of COVID, due to their underlying health conditions.
"I think everyone will be happy when we see the Omicron variant start to decline."
SOA marketing and communications manager Kiefer Scott Sutherland said the decision to reopen is up to each affiliate Special Olympics organization.
“We recognize that some affiliates & CPs (community programs) may choose not to reopen, and some may reopen cautiously, SOA supports and respects each affiliate & CP’s decision,” he wrote in an email.