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India on cusp of a unique revolution in a very Special Olympics event: Shriver

India is leading a unique revolution of inclusion in the Special Olympics event, a social cum societal sporting event that has the potential to transform the lives of people suffering from intellectual disabilities.

other sports Updated: Oct 19, 2017 11:56 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Special Olympics,Olympics,Paralympics
Tim Shriver (left), Chairman of the Special Olympics, says India’s diverse dynamics make this country a model of an inclusive revolution.(Twitter)

The sporting world is well-versed with the Olympic Games and the Paralympic Games. The Olympics, held every four years and is considered one of the elite events while the Paralympics is a noble occasion giving athletes with physical deficiencies the chance to shine on the international stage.

The world knows very little about the Special Olympics. The event, started in 1968, is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. There are a total of 5.7 million athletes from 172 countries in this event.

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India has had limited success in the Olympics and Paralympics. However, when it comes to the Special Olympics, India is looked upon as a nation that has a potential to create a unique revolution in the sporting world. According to Dr Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, India’s diverse dynamics make this country a model of an inclusive revolution.

“There are 1.4 million athletes from India alone. 70 percent of them are from rural areas and local communities. Special Olympics India is one of the largest programs in the world for us. India is the world’s largest democracy and one of the fastest growing economies in the world. All these factors make this an important country for our future if we are aiming for success,” Shriver said in an exclusive chat with Hindustan Times.

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Shriver, who is visiting India to oversee the development of the Special Olympics programme in the country, recently had an interaction with Delhi Dynamos F.C. and WWE champion Jinder Mahal, who is also in the country.

The Special Olympic chairman said that the slowly but surely, things are changing for the better. “In New Delhi, I saw kids with Down Syndrome participate in the Special Olympics. They are learning to play, dance and build friendships. The smile on the mothers of these children makes one feel that if you change the life of one person, you can change the world. This is the hope for our movement in this country,” Shriver added.

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Personal tragedy

Shriver’s Special Olympics dream was brought about due to a misfortune in the family. His aunt, Rosemary, suffered from intellectual disability in the early 50s. His mother, Eugene Kennedy Shriver, had written an article titled ‘Hope for Retarded Children’ in 1962 and it spurred his uncle, the late US President John F Kennedy to initiate funding for this problem.

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Despite legislation, societal prejudices and acceptance issues remain. “There is anger in our movement. People suffering from intellectual disabilities are discriminated brutally. There is rejection by schools, they are denied employment, most parents never get to say they are proud of their sons and daughter,” Shriver said.

This anger has been channeled well by the Special Olympics team, who are living by the oath of the tournament which says, “Let me win. But, if I cannot win, let me brave in the attempt.”

First Published: Oct 19, 2017 11:46 IST