“Let me win, if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.” –
Motto, International Special Olympics
The Special Olympics Committee has designated India as a priority state in developing its global athletic program. It intends to expand India’s Special Olympics program throughout the country, with the goal of reaching over one million people with intellectual disabilities by 2012. To this end, the committee launched the Special Olympics Bharat initiative, an effort designed to expand the Special Olympics community into every Indian state.
The Special Olympics began in 1968 when Anne M. Burke, a physical education teacher in a Chicago school district, decided to host a one-time athletic event for people with special needs. The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, the event’s financial supporters, strongly encouraged Burke to expand the games to a national scale. As a result, more than one thousand athletes from the United States and Canada participated in the first Special Olympics in 1968.
Today, the Special Olympics is a truly international event, with both Summer and Winter games alternating every two years. Local, regional and national competitions now occur in over 170 countries globally. More than three million athletes participate in 30 summer and winter Olympic-style sports in the competitions.
The International Special Olympic Committee’s decision to prioritize India’s program is largely a result of the tremendous need for a support system for India’s special needs population. Over 30 million people in India are intellectually disabled. The vast majority of these individuals are cast out of schools, society and even their own families. Special Olympics Bharat is attempting to bring these individuals back into a supportive structure and community. Through physical fitness and sports, it provides an environment to grow, share and bond.
Special Olympics Bharat operates in 21 states in India. Nearly 700,000 athletes participate in the program. India has recently achieved a great success in the international arena, bringing home seven gold medals from the 2009 World Winter Games.
A crucial component of the Special Olympics is to raise public awareness and understanding of people with intellectual disabilities. Through public education programs, community involvement and media exposure, the Special Olympics community is striving to create a more open and accepting society.
You can find out more, locate a local state chapter or learn about volunteering by visiting the Special Olympics Bharat website here
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