More than two months before the start of the International Special Olympics Summer Games the organisation committee announced it is in full readiness. Over 7000 athletes from 180 countries, their families and 2500 coaches are expected to arrive in Greece on the 24th of June. Over the next four days, they will visit various places throughout the country to get acquainted with the Greek tradition and culture, while local communities will have the opportunity to become acquainted with them and learn more about their skills.
Who, however, are the athletes taking part in these Games? These are people with mental disabilities who are the largest group in the world with 200 million members. The percentage of people with mental disabilities varies between 1% and 3% in the different countries, and reaches even 5% in some. Sad but accurate are the data, showing that 97% of the people with mental disabilities live in conditions of isolation from society. There is even no specific legislation in most countries to support their rights and promote their integration.
This is the purpose of the organisation Special Olympics formed in 1968: to enable children and youth with mental disabilities to participate in trainings and competitions in many of the Olympic disciplines throughout the year. Thu, they show their capabilities and this helps them participate more actively in the public life. Many of them work.
The organisers stressed that even countries that have serious problems did not hamper the participation of their athletes in the Games. Special Olympics athletes from Japan, Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Bahrain and Haiti will be competing with their peers from around the world.
The head of the Special Olympics Hellas Joanna Despotopoulou said that 25 000 volunteers, five thousand more than the required number, have expressed their will to help carry out the Games. She believes it is very indicative of the society’s response to the Games.
Over 350 official guests have applied for participation for now. Among them is the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who will spend four days among the athletes of the Special Olympics. Stevie Wonder, Vanessa Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger are few of the celebrities who will be in Athens for the Games. The rest are kept secret and will be announced shortly before the opening.
The so-called Health Program will be held during the Games. Medical teams examine all the athletes upon their arrival in the host country before the Games begin. This is very important for their participation in them. According to the deputy chairwoman of the Special Olympics Kirsten Suto Seckler, the medical teams often find problems that the doctors in the home countries of the athletes have not noticed. Some athletes even have been taken to hospital after the examination. The athletes are provided with glasses, headphones and everything they need.
The building of the Greek Parliament will host a meeting of youth with the participation of children aged 13-17 years with and without disabilities. They will discuss how they can live together and will issue a statement. The Greek President Karolos Papoulias will ratify it, while the Parliament will vote a bill for the Special Olympics athletes as well as for children without disabilities, providing for the obligation of school officials to ensure the overall presence of children at breaks and sports events. Subsequently, the declaration will be sent to the United Nations to be applied in all Member States.
Tags: SportSpecial OlympicsPreparationCelebritiesChildren with mental disabilities
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