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Once a year for the past decade, leaders from the international sports community gather to unite people from around the globe and throughout the entire spectrum of sport at the International SportAccord Convention.  Nearly 1800 delegates from 75 different nationalities attended the recent 2012 convention, representing +100 international sports federations and the International Olympic Committee, alongside leaders in business, government and media.  The below memo was written by Special Olympics athlete and international board member, Matthew Williams, who explained to his fellow board members just how important it was for Special Olympics to have a presence amongst the leaders of the international sporting community.

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Dear Fellow Special Olympics International Board Members:

During the week of May 20th Special Olympics sent a delegation to the 10th annual SportAccord Convention. This is the world’s premiere annual event for the global sports community to foster positive change internationally, so it was a great place for Special Olympics to have a presence!

After winning the “Spirit of Sport” award at the convention last year, this year we had a Special Olympics booth with great representatives from our movement.  I was proud to be in attendance, along with Shawn Fevens, from Special Olympics Canada who is one of our provincial sport directors, Donna DeVarona, from our board, and from Lee Todd, Jon Paul St. Germain, Cyndi Court and Mandy Murphy from Special Olympics International, who all helped spread the word about our wonderful world of Special Olympics.  In addition, our Chairman and CEO Tim Shriver attended and spoke on a panel, along with other sport leaders, about sport and social responsibility.  He called me on-stage at the end of the panel (see photo below) where I told the audience that Special Olympics athletes deserve to be treated like all other athletes.

Our Special Olympics delegation had important meetings with international sport federations such as FIVB (volleyball), FINA (swimming), ISF (softball ), FEI (equestrian), IFF (floorball) and WTBA (tenpin bowling) to discuss how we can connect their national members with our Special Olympics National Programs in order to have the greatest impact on sports at the local level, and to get our athletes better access to high level coaches, officials and competition facilities.  We also met with media who cover the global sports industry and educated them about Special Olympics.  By the end of the week we had met with more than 50 organizations who attended this year’s SportAccord Convention!

All week we had a lot of people come by our Special Olympics booth interested in so many different areas of our organization. Some were interested in hosting a games competition, how to help us get more media coverage and others were interested in just learning more about us.

I believe this was a great event for Special Olympics to be at. In talking with SOI Board member Donna De Varona, she also felt it was very important for Special Olympics to be at this convention and to meet with the global sports community.  By talking to the international sport federations and educating them on Special Olympics we were seen for what we really are: a sports organization that shows people the true meaning of the power of sport and what it takes to be a champion!

Sincerely,

Matthew Williams

Sports & Social Responsibility panel on May 24 in Quebec, left to right: Baroness Sue Campbell (Chair, UK Sport), Tim Shriver (Chairman & CEO, Special Olympics), Mel Young (President & Co-Founder, Homeless World Cup) and Matthew Williams with moderator Charmaine Crooks (5-time Olympian, and Pres. of NGU Consultants).

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