Almost €2 million needs to be raised to fund the 2014 Special Olympics Ireland Games in Limerick next summer.
At an event to mark the launch of the games Special Olympics chief executive Matt English said "people and finance" were the two critical areas to guarantee the success of the prestigious sporting event.
Some 1,500 Special Olympics athletes from across Ireland will travel to Limerick for the games, which follow the successful staging of the same event in the city in 2010.
It is hoped that up to 120 athletes competing in the Limerick games will go on to represent Ireland at the Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles in August 2015.
The Limerick Games will be supported by a team of 3,000 volunteers who will be recruited in a campaign led by Ireland rugby captain Paul O’Connell.
The athletes will be accompanied by 500 coaches and official delegates as well as more than 3,000 family members. The event will take place over four days from June 12th to June 15th.
"Over the coming months we will be working hard to raise the €1.9 million required to cover the costs of these Games," said Mr English. "With the help of 3,000 volunteers and businesses from the greater Limerick area we are determined to ensure that the Special Olympics Ireland 2014 Limerick Games will be a fantastic success and talked about for many years to come."
When asked how cuts in funding to services for people with disabilities is affecting the Special Olympics, Mr English admitted it had become harder to fund new clubs. “We have 11,000 athletes who are training every week out of 400 clubs.
“What we have found due to cutbacks in services generally is we are having to replace those [clubs] with opening up community-based clubs that are . . . run [by volunteers]. Certainly that’s the biggest impact for our athletes right now. Everyone is hurting and our athletes are affected by the economy like everyone else.”
Former Irish and Munster Rugby star David Wallace, who was co-host of a gala event to launch the games at University Concert Hall Limerick, said local support would be essential to making the Games a success.