Special Olympics athletes are fighters. Around the world, nearly 4 million of them battle every day to win the respect and dignity they deserve in their homes, schools, workplaces, and communities. From Albania to Zambia, Chicago to Shanghai, they challenge prejudice and stigma with every lap they swim, goal they score, and personal best they beat. On the field and off, they find inspiration in each other, in their coaches, and in their friends and family.
This week, however, the Special Olympics movement has found a new inspiration.
In the aftermath of the unconscionable tragedy that has recently befallen Oslo, the people of Norway have shown the world the most powerful weapon against hatred: unity. In the midst of shock and grief, citizens of Oslo poured on to the streets Monday night – 200,000 of them – with roses in their hands and peace in their hearts. The event had no official organizer and the participants no written agenda. A demonstration of the highest order, the crowd was joined by the Norwegian royal family and politicians of all parties. In the hour of such pain, where many before have been quick to thoughts of vengeance or impulsive retaliation, this community gave its firm support of acceptance and peace, declaring that violent acts, even those so heinous, will not create more hate but instead love and strength of community.
I am confident that the global spirit of Special Olympics will be with Special Olympics Norway as they move forward with their upcoming National Summer Games in Oslo August 12-14. Geir Smeby, the national director of SO Norway, has told me that these games “will show everyone that we fight for democracy and tolerance! SO Norway will show the society that our athletes fight battles every day and will fight for acceptance and dignity in general.”
I hope that you will join me in sending thoughts, prayers, and condolences to the people of Norway in the wake of this tragedy. I hope that you will join me in following the example of their faith in the power of community. I hope that you will join me in wishing the best of luck to Special Olympics Norway as they prepare for their upcoming time of triumph.
Fight on. Play on.