The 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games were hosted in Ireland, with participants staying in various host towns around the island in the lead up to the games before moving to Dublin for the events. Events were held from 21 June-29 June 2003 at many venues including Morton Stadium, the Royal Dublin Society in Ballsbridge and the National Basketball Arena in Tallaght, Dublin. Croke Park Gaelic games stadium, in Dublin served as the central stadium for the opening and closing ceremonies, even though no competitions took place there. Belfast was the venue for roller skating events (at the Kings Hall), as well as the Special Olympics Scientific Symposium (held from 19-20 June).
Host town programme
177 towns, cities and villages and the Aran Islands hosted national delegations in the run up to the games. Each town ran programmes to educate the local community about the customs of the country they would host and provided facilities for the teams to acclimatise. Newbridge, County Kildare, host to the Japan delegation won the award for best host town.
 Volunteer programme
Iraqi athletes departing Dublin after the 2003 Special Olympics World Games
30,000 volunteer officials and support staff assisted in the running of the games, including 900 staff of the Bank of Ireland who coordinated the host town programme and 800 members of the Irish Defence Forces who maintained the radio communication network, and provided support for bridge building, security duties, VIP drivers, standard bearers for ceremonial events and emergency medical teams. 165 volunteers from the then 15 countries of the EU took part in a European Volunteer Project (EVS), the first ever to be organized in event-related mode. The volunteers are commemorated by having their names on a series of plaques situated in Dublin Castle, just outside the Chester Beatty Library.
The 2003 World Games were the first to be held outside of the United States. Approximately 7000 athlete...