Special Olympics: See the bigger picture


Special Olympics: See the bigger picture

Friday, March 15, 2019

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ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games officially got underway yesterday to much pomp and fanfare.

But the movement runs deeper than the opening ceremony glitz staged inside Zayed Sports City, United Arab Emirates.

The Special Olympics Games are a celebration of humanity, kindness, courage, determination and hope. They provide the opportunity to amplify calls of inclusion for all people, regardless of background and ability or disability.

The event is perhaps the ultimate platform to spread the concepts of acceptance, understanding and respect for all.

The late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of former United States President John F Kennedy and senators Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy, was a pioneer in the global struggle for rights and inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.

She had dreams of a global community in which every person is welcomed; one in which people with intellectual disabilities have access to proper health care.

Kennedy Shriver founded the movement, hosting a summer camp for people with disabilities in 1962, and in July 1968 the first International Special Olympics Games was held in Chicago, Illinois.

Her legacy lives on. Only last summer the inaugural Unified Football Cup was held in Chicago to commemorate the 50th year of Special Olympics.

Jamaica was a part of the Unified Cup, performing admirably to place second to France in Division Two.

A 90-odd member Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) delegation is flying the flag in the UAE, an Asian country located at the tip of the Arabian Peninsula and which shares borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman.

The Jamaican athletes are anxious to have a go.

Any why not?

Readers would recall the extensive coverage in this newspaper throughout respective World Winter Games in South Korea in 2013 and in Austria in 2017, and at the last Summer Games in United States four years ago.

There were countless success stories.

At the 2019 Games there is promise for much of the same.

This time around SOJ is set to compete in aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, football, roller skating and volleyball.

But while Jamaicans at home and abroad cheer on these athletes, everyone should look beyond the shiny accolades and explore the heartbeat within the Special Olympics movement — the relentless drive to spread awareness and tolerance.

It really isn't only about winning medals. The Special Olympics athlete's oath says as much: “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”.

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