Able Magazine have worked with Special Olympics GB for a long time, so it was a privilege to have again been selected as media partner for their latest event, the Anniversary Games.
Held in Stirling, Scotland in August, the Games celebrated Special Olympics GB’s 40th anniversary of providing year-round sports training and competition opportunities for people with intellectual (learning) disabilities in Great Britain – and has since become the largest charity of its type in the UK.
This year’s Games saw 1,400 athletes with intellectual disabilities from across Great Britain and additional teams from abroad, take part in friendly competition in a range of sports.
The depth of support behind the scenes was also impressive with a further 400 coaches and ofﬁcials, 500 volunteers and 5,000 family members and spectators in attendance.
Although Special Olympics sports are competitive, athletes are classiﬁed, in an attempt to cater for all ability levels, enabling athletes to enjoy sports including badminton, boccia, cycling, football, golf, athletics, table tennis, swimming and indoor bowls.
A new focus of the Games was ‘Play Uniﬁed’ that promotes friendship and camaraderie between disabled and non-disabled people through joint participation on and off the ﬁeld of play.
Special Olympics GB really helps to raise the proﬁle of people with intellectual disabilities.
The Anniversary Games was another opportunity to show the wider world what it means to have an intellectual disability and the challenges that the athletes face beyond their sporting endeavours. Built into these Games was the ‘Be bold, be kind, be awesome!’ campaign. Directly targeted at young people, the campaign focuses on challenging young people’s perceptions and attitudes towards young people with intellectual (learning) disabilities, with the aim of creating a more uniﬁ ed future based on better understanding and relationships – in the same way that other disability speciﬁc events have been successful at doing.
A characteristic of Special Olympics competition is the combination of fun and respect. Few, if any of the athletes compete without a glowing smile on their face, even though they take their personal and team performances very seriously, digging deep and giving their all. First place or last place, each athlete is given an opportunity to do their best in a respectful environment enriched by a warm reception from the crowd. It’s sometimes easy to forget why sport matters but the Special Olympics athletes remind us that it’s more about how the game is played, than what the result is.
The backdrop of Stirling’s magniﬁ cent Wallace Monument couldn’t have been more appropriate as athletes from all over the UK (and Europe) showcased their courage and passion.