The Special Olympics 2017 took place in Austria this year between March 14th and March 25th. The Games occur every two years, rather than every four years, and alternate between summer and winter sporting events. This year, the focus was on winter sports, encompassing over 4.7 million participants and 1 million volunteers and coaches performing in more than 30 winter sports. The Special Olympics have been taking place for 49 years and the participation numbers have only grown and expanded since they first premiered.
The games were founded under the vision of the Special Olympics, “to gain, with the positive attributes of sport, athletes, families and volunteers from all over the world for their idea.” The games not only attempt to spread the message of equality and participation, but also to strengthen human rights overall. Up until recent years, there has been an unnecessary stigma on the mentally and physically disabled, but the Special Olympics has changed the way the world views handicapped individuals.
The Special Olympics were not only developed to broaden the view of the world, but to introduce a new world to special individuals. The video on the Special Olympics website, titled “Speechless,” spoke to me on a very deep level. I have a nephew who is developmentally disabled, and I often worry about how he will adapt to the ever-changing social environment this modern-day world poses.
At home, we watch his mind flourish with his toys and games. Everyone who encounters him, whether in the park or at the grocery store, speaks so highly of his positive attitude and how he brightens their day. This video on the Special Olympics website addresses one young man’s former fears of embarrassment, which made him shy and anxious in school and other social settings. He says that, as he started playing golf and participating in the Special Olympics, he became more upbeat and outgoing. The young man gained a confidence which he had never thought would be possible for someone in his position. This is my wish for everyone who is handicapped and to the families of all those special individuals, who understand the many gifts given to their loved ones, and who fear the world may never see those gifts shine through.
The Special Olympics is geared toward families, too, allowing them to participate in tours and events with the participants, as well as providing seats to see their loved ones compete in person in the games. The hosts of the Special Olympics have partnered with hotels, tour companies, and car rental facilities to make it as easy as possible for the loved ones of participants to organize their trips to Austria for the games this year.
The participants, their families, and the millions of spectators viewing the games will now be able to enjoy the talents of these young people, who may never have had the courage to take the spotlight without the Special Olympics. To any possible participants reading these, Frederick Foot & Ankle wishes you the best of luck. Keep warm and keep moving!