Check out these links to the 2011 World Summer Games in Athens, Greece:
Alternating between summer and winter, the Special Olympics World Games are one of the world’s largest sporting events, drawing as many if not more athletes than the Olympics. Every two years since 1968, athletes from more than 100 nations have gathered to celebrate sport and showcase the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. This prominent world stage brings attention to the Special Olympics movement and helps create positive, sometimes lifesaving policy change for people with intellectual disabilities in countries around the world.
The bravery of athletes competing at World Games inspires participating nations and brings much-needed attention to the conditions of people with intellectual disabilities within their borders. At the same time, the World Games provide opportunity for cross-cultural conversations about how to foster inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities. Athletes, families, volunteers, world leaders and Special Olympics celebrity ambassadors convene at the Games to attend policy summits, exchange ideas and talk to the public about the life-changing transformations Special Olympics brings about in participants and communities.
The World Games are also catalysts for change within the countries that host them. World Games stimulate local economies and create momentum for citizen engagement by promoting grass-roots volunteerism – as seen in Ireland during the 2003 World Games, when 30,000 people from across the nation volunteered to work at Games in Dublin.
This catalyzing effect extends beyond communities to include governments as well. Ireland passed a new disability act after it hosted the 2003 World Games. And leading up to the 2007 World Summer Games in Shanghai, China unveiled an unprecedented five-year government growth plan that included new educational, job and health care opportunities for individuals with intellectual disabilities across the nation.
Special Olympics Founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver did the best job of summing up the power of the World Games:
“Special Olympics is one ‘issue’ any local or national government can and will support once they have the unique experience of hosting a World Games and learning more about these athletes. I say this emphatically because it has happened after every World Games in our history. It always happens.”