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Hermann Kroll: The father of Special Olympics Austria

Special Olympics Austria pay tribute to Hermann Kröll at the Opening Ceremony (GEPA pictures/ Christian Walgram)
by Christian A. Hoch, AIPS Young Reporter, Germany

GRAZ, March 19, 2017 – It was his last wish: Being part of Special Olympics 2017 in Austria. Hermann Kröll was president of Special Olympics Austria from 1993 to 2016 and brought the World Games to his home country twice. In the last year he died after his long fight against cancer. During the Opening Ceremony on Saturday there was a tribute to the man who was also the former mayor of Schladming, explaining what Special Olympics meant to his entire life.

It was a symbol of the message of Special Olympics movement. People from all over the world united in a show of respect to one specific person during the Opening Ceremony of the World Winter Games 2017 in Austria. They gave their warm applause and standing ovations to Hermann Kröll.

The President emeritus of Special Olympics Arnold Schwarzenegger called him the “father of Special Olympics Austria.” A look at the life of Hermann Kröll inspires the conclusion that this is definitely the truth.

The honorary citizen of Schladming was a politician his entire life. For 30 years he was mayor of his hometown and always wanted to be in contact with its citizens. This is what brought him such a reputation in Austria and all over the world. But his real passion was always, to spread the idea of Special Olympics to people from other countries.

Kröll changed everything

Back in the 1980s, Special Olympics was not yet a huge global movement. Then Hermann Kröll changed everything with his vision. He had no direct connection to people with intellectual or other disabilities, yet he quickly saw how important Special Olympics were. But it was still very small. So Kröll had an idea, that changed everything at Special Olympics: He wanted to bring the Special Olympics World Games to Austria. And it worked.

In 1993, the Games took place in Salzburg and Schladming – outside of the USA for the first time. As like in his political career, Kröll lookd for and found a direct connection with his athletes and has been a mentor and father to them. All Special Olympics athletes had a special connection with Hermann Kröll.

Heartbeat for the world – heartbeat for Special Olympics

The slogan of Special Olympics 2017 in Austria is: “Heartbeat for the world.” For Hermann Kröll the motto of his life was: “Heartbeat for Special Olympics.” That is why he was president of Special Olympics Austria for 23 years. For him the idea behind Special Olympics was something really important. “The master plan of USA with Special Olympics was to open a window for the idea of integration and to open society for people with intellectual disabilities,” he stated once.

During a long period of his life, the owner of badge of honour from Austria fought against cancer. The last wish of his life was to bring Special Olympics one more time to his country and to be part of the competition. He succeeded in bringing Special Olympics back to Austria. Last year, he received the official flag of World Winter Games 2017 last year in the USA and signed the contract. His mission was almost complete.

On 17 September 2016 Hermann Kröll died– news that shook all of Austria. The nation then set the goal of dedicating the World Winter Games 2017 to Kröll, for everything that he had done. Kröll, the father of Special Olympics Austria, he would be proud of the World Winter Games 2017 in Graz, Schladming and Ramsau.

Follow Christian A. Hoch on Twitter @c_a_hoch

The Young Reporters Programme has been made possible thanks to the support of the European Union's Erasmus + programme

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