Today, for the first time in the history of the Special Olympics movement, leadership from all corners of the global sports community gathered in one room during Special Olympics World Summer Games ATHENS 2011 to address how Special Olympics utilizes the power of sport to create social change and inclusion and to promote development and peace.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser on Sport for Development and Peace, Wilfried Lemke, told Special Olympics Chairman and CEO, Tim Shriver, “We are just in the first steps of this movement you call a revolution. “I’m a marathon runner and I know that we are not more than 1,000 meters in a long run to bring persons with disabilities to the forefront. Lemke continued with conviction that “We all have to have these people in the center of our society and not exclude them! We see you and your powerful work and of course I tell everybody in the world wherever I am that you can believe me that this is one of my priorities, to work to bring these people to the center of our society. The joy and the happiness and the pure joy of sports, that is the core of the meaning that I can see here in Special Olympics – that is the reason why you can be absolutely sure, Tim, that the United Nations family will follow you on your way!”
Special Olympics called for key partnerships with international organizations, such as the UN, and with the global sports community, specifically with International Sport Federations, to help to collaborate in their contribution towards the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals.
“We started with a social goal and sport emerged as the means to right an injustice,” said Shriver.
Shriver and Lemke were joined by an impressive group from the worldwide sports community including Don Porter, International Softball Federation President and Chair of SportAccord’s Spirit of Sport Award Committee, Ingrid Beutler, SportAccord, Manager, Sports’ Social Responsibility, Liza Barrie, UNICEF, Chief, Civil Society Partnerships, Edwin Moses, Multiple Olympic Gold Medal Winner and Laureus World Sports Academy Chairman, Federico Addiechi, FIFA, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, Loretta Claiborne and Special Olympics Board Member and athlete. The press event was emceed by Olympic medalist and Special Olympics Board of Directors Vice-Chair Bart Conner.
The highlight of the afternoon turned out to be Loretta Claiborne’s remarks to the group in which she shared her view on the importance of sport. She shared how she was angry when she was young, used her fists as an outlet for that anger, living in 1960s America as a black female with a disability was difficult. Eventually she was introduced to Special Olympics where she says she “stopped using her fists and started using her feet.” Loretta shared more about the power of sport to instill discipline and self-worth, but one of the greatest lessons anyone can learn is to never paraphrase what a Special Olympics athlete says because nothing is more powerful than hearing their own words. So, with that, watch the video below to hear Loretta’s passionate remarks to the international sport community.
Also please enjoy a short slideshow from this afternoon’s press conference.