With only days to go until the Special Olympics World Games, the organisation Special Olympics Great Britain was raising awareness for the event at a fundraising reception in London, hosted by the UAE embassy, on February 28th.
“Intellectual disabilities make up the largest disability group in Great Britain and most likely, around the world,” Special Olympics Great Britain Chairman, Murton Mann, said during the evening. He emphasised how training together and playing together can be a quick way to better understanding and therefore “transform lives and, in the long run, transform communities.”
Mann further pointed out the factually proven benefits of sport for anyone with an intellectual disability; physically, mentally and socially. Special Olympics was founded on this belief and currently supports over 4 million athletes worldwide.
Unlike both The Olympic Games and the Paralympics, the Special Olympics focus on providing year-round training and competition programmes. “We then have our competitions on a national and international level to create a goal and to celebrate,” Vice-Chairman Len Dunne told 7Dnews.
“When you have your World Games and you have an opening ceremony with 80,000 people, it’s just a wonderful atmosphere, because these people are wonderful.”
What makes the Special Olympics special is exactly that - the athletes. “They struggle with understanding the world around them but when you get to meet and engage with people with intellectual disabilities, you realise what great people they are.”
People without intellectual disabilities engage with a group of the population who cannot always articulate their own needs, but that’s where the sport comes in, Dunne explains, “We’re using sports as a way to get people together. It’s a great way for them not to just get physically fit but to make friends, for their families to connect, to be a part of the community.”
The team of 128 athletes representing the Great Britain team this year will be given a send-off on March 7th, before travelling to Abu Dhabi, where the UAE is hosting the Special Olympics World Games 2019.