The UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, is in attendance at the XIII Special Olympics World Summer Games which opened in June in Athens, Greece. Every two years since 1968, the Special Olympics World Games have gathered athletes with intellectual disabilities in what is nowadays one of the world’s largest sporting events.
Since he was appointed to the position of Special Adviser in March 2008, Wilfried Lemke has been a strong advocate for a greater use of adaptive sport and physical activity as avenues for fostering the inclusion of persons with disabilities in communities and societies, and for empowering them.
Mr. Lemke joined Mr. Timothy Shriver, CEO and Chairman of Special Olympics, and Mr. Don Porter, President of the International Softball Federation – as well as other panellists including representatives from UNICEF and FIFA – in a media event held on the sidelines of the competitions.
At the event, the Special Adviser stressed one value of Special Olympics, which is to “profoundly and sustainably transform the image of persons with intellectual disabilities in the public eye”. He continued: “Special Olympics transforms communities from closed to open ones, from intolerant to accepting ones and by using sport to accomplish this, has come to represent the good, the power and the true spirit of sport.”
Timothy Shriver, son of the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics movement, and Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF, signed a an agreement which will serve as the basis for a new framework of collaboration between the two organizations in advocating for the rights of children with disabilities around the world (see photos here). The agreement comes as the latest in a long series of partnerships between UN entities and sports organizations.
Mr. Lemke took part in the ‘Unity Sport Cycling Event’, a side-event aimed at raising funds for the Special Olympics movement. Along with a Special Olympics athlete, he competed in a 1000-metre cycling time trial.
After the race Mr. Lemke noted: “The Special Olympics is definitely something one can only understand through experience. Today I have felt a unique atmosphere of unity through sport. The World Games are a powerful display of the potential of sport as a tool for advancing social goals and deeply impacting the lives of people in a positive way. The Games offer the opportunity for the world to focus on the abilities of the athletes as opposed to the common perception that focuses on their disabilities.”sportetcitoyennete