Vancouver to Host 2015 Winter Deaflympics

The crowd settled into  seats and a welcoming blanket of silence fell across the room. All that could be heard was the swift movement of fabrics brushing together as the guests signed to one another. The 2015 Winter Deaflympics were officially announced at the BC Sports Hall of Fame at BC Place Stadium today, where a group of athletes and supporters gathered around the podium to show their support for Vancouver's third Olympic Games.

A tall, dark-haired man stood in the corner of the room. Wearing a blue dress shirt and a black suit, he signed back-and-forth with a grey-haired woman in a long brown sweater. The excitement in their hands, and smiles on their faces marked the beginning of the coming Games.

Originally founded in 1924, the Deaflympics were originally known as “The Silent Games”, and were first hosted in Paris. The Games provide much needed support for deaf athletes to compete in world-wide sporting events with the hearing direction that they need to compete.

“The Deaflympics mean that we are on par with other athletes,” said Jessica Dunkley, former alpine skier for the Deaflympics. “We all have similar goals—we are interested in competing to the top of our level.”

Silent applause was seen throughout the room, as members of the audience raised both their arms, spread their fingers and used their wrists to move their hands from side to side. This was clapping, in sign language.

Cole Sanderson, a recent competitor at last year’s Summer Deaflympics in Taipei, Taiwan, was just one of many speakers who shared their support for the Games.

“The Deaflympics in Taipei was one of the best experience of my life,” Sanderson said. “It was incredible to be competing with other deaf athletes from other countries.”

Sanderson also shared a story of competing on a hearing team during his career as an athlete.

“My social situations in those areas were difficult for me,” Sanderson said. “When I participated in the Deaflympics not only did I have an opportunity to compete at an elite athletic level, but I had an opportunity to socialize with other people from different countries who shared similar experiences with me.”

Silent claps were seen once again throughout the audience as an eruption of hand burst into the hair and sparkled through the room.

“I even met a deaf athlete that competed in the hearing Olympics,” Sanderson said, “It was incredible.”

Over 1000 athletes are expected to participate in Vancouver’s 2015 games, with participants from 35 different countries around the world. Sporting events include ice hockey, curling, alpine skiing, alpine skiing and snowboarding.

Vancouver will be the second Canadian city to host the Deaflympics, and will be the second country to host all three Olympic Games: Paralympics, Olympics and the Deaflympics. America’s Salt Lake City was the first.

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