SCHLADMING/RAMSAU, March 27, 2017 – An Estonian journalist was invited to cover the Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. “I can’t promise you a big story, but I am coming over,” he said. It turned out the journalist had a child of his own with intellectual disabilities. “It took me 12 years and 75 days to realise how great son I had,” he opened his heart, after experiencing the Games.
This is exactly why are the Games are happening. Tim Shriver, the CEO of Special Olympics, is constantly reminding us all - that the most important message that matters is that of inclusion. There is no need to treat athletes with intellectual disabilities differently. We must involve them in our lives. We need them.
Indonesian athlete Stephanie Handojo, aged 25, said: “I was afraid of water. But now I am a swimmer and I won the gold medal in Athens in 2011. I now work for Red Cross to promote inclusion in our community.”
Everyone in the Special Olympics community is aware of the need for inclusion. Therefore, projects and specific events are as much a part of the movement as the Games themselves. For example, the employees of The Coca Cola Company decorated wooden hearts and sent them to Austria. Each delegation at World Winter Games 2017 received one colourful heart with their nation’s flag and with a personal message.
“It breaks the barriers, it connects people. We love Special Olympics because everybody is a winner.” Philipp Bodzenta, a representative from Coca Cola said. On the other side, he admits that a big winner is the company itself: “It makes sense on multiple levels, we have much better polling with our people, we have much better polling with our stakeholders and customers, we have also something good for our business.”
The Coca Cola Company is the founding sponsor of Special Olympics, having been with the organization since 1968 and has already provided nearly 200 million euros to promote the Games and to society a better place.
At Special Olympics, you give more smiles and more hugs than anywhere else. Every medal ceremony is a party. Coaches are touched by the performances of their athletes and athletes are proud to be honoured.
Jochen Hugmann is a 41-year-old athlete from Austria. His parents were alcoholics, he was in a wheelchair since from the age of 24 and moreover, he had drinking problems. By a lucky coincidence, he happened to become a part of the Austrian Special Olympics team. “Special Olympics changed my life,” he admitted.
Special Olympics is urging us all to accept people with intellectual disabilities and treat them just like everyone else, like Ronaldo or Messi. The fight is for them too to sign a long-term contract, to become a star. To support and inspire other people all over the world.
“10 years from now, the Special Olympic World Games will have a much bigger impact in what they are doing,” predicts Philipp Bodzenta.
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