Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games: Showcases a "Can Do" Attitude on the Global Stage. (Sports, Recreation, & Play)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games: Showcases a "Can Do" Attitude on the Global Stage. (Sports, Recreation, & Play)

Article excerpt

More than 1,800 athletes and coaches from approximately 80 countries traveled to Anchorage, Alaska, to participate in the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games from March 4 to 11.

Special Olympics athletes competed in seven different winter sports: Cross Country Skiing, Alpine Skiing, Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Floor Hockey, Snowshoeing, and Snowboarding. Similar in size to the last Olympics held in Nagano, Japan, the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games was the largest sporting event ever held in the history of Alaska.

Special Olympics is an international year-round program of sports training and competition for individuals with mental retardation. More than one million athletes in over 160 countries train and compete in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, Special Olympics provides people with mental retardation continuing opportunities to develop fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy as they participate in the sharing of gifts and friendship with other athletes, their families, and the community. Athletes and their families are not charged a fee to participate in Special Olympics.

The 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games and the events surrounding it made a lasting impression on the world stage. In addition to medal competition, the Games were at the center of other significant happenings that helped bring attention to issues involving individuals with mental retardation.

Special Olympics commissioned a Special Report on the Health Status and Needs of Individuals with Mental Retardation, which was presented before the US Senate. The purpose of this report is to identify opportunities that may be available, given current scientific knowledge and technology, to improve the quality and length of life of persons with mental retardation, and most notably, Special Olympics athletes. A panel of distinguished speakers in the fields of mental retardation, healthcare, and physical fitness testified before the US Senate Committee on Appropriations on the health status and needs of people with mental retardation--the first of its kind convened exclusively to meet the needs of people with mental retardation. The hearing, chaired by Senator Ted Stevens, coincided with the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games.

Continuing their commitment to improving and maintaining the health of people with mental retardation, Special Olympics provided the opportunity for individuals to have access to various health-screening services at the Games. More than a thousand Special Olympics athletes received the following screenings: vision, dental, hearing, physical therapy including assessment, education, prevention, and some corrective care (e.g., eyeglasses). The Athlete Health Promotion Center, which is a new feature at Special Olympics, offered a range of services designed to inform athletes about their health risks and to provide information and guidance to assist them to improve their health profile, largely through choices that they can make.

Getting the word out to the world about Special Olympics and its message of encouraging people with mental retardation to achieve as much as possible is an ongoing mission, requiring support from all. Rising to the challenge are students, parents, and the media.

Held in conjunction with the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games is the first-ever Special Olympics Global Youth Summit in Anchorage from March 5-10, with 34 students from around the world in attendance. The students participating in the Summit have dedicated the next two years to creating a plan to strengthen Special Olympics in their schools and communities and help change attitudes and acceptance of individuals with mental retardation.

Parents of Special Olympics athletes also stepped forward to voice their opinions. The first-ever Global Family Forum gave parents the opportunity to come together to address Timothy Shriver, President and CEO of Special Olympics, Inc. …

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