Special Olympics Honors Nelson Mandela

December 07, 2013

Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games Closing Ceremony saw over 10,000 people, with and without disabilities, gathered in celebration, and to observe respect for the late South African president and icon of inclusion.

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Press Release

Newcastle (Australia), Singapore, Washington D.C. – More than 10,000 people with and without disabilities united tonight at an open-air festival concert in Newcastle, Australia to celebrate the closing of the inaugural Special Olympics 2013 Asia Pacific Games, and to honor the legacy of Special Olympics supporter, Nelson Mandela. Special Olympics athletes coaches and support teams observed a minute of silence as a salute to the late South African president and international icon for inclusion, equality and freedom.

Mandela and his children’s foundation worked with Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver and her organization to reach out to people with intellectual disabilities and their families.

In Mandela’s words, “The Special Olympics gives testimony to the indestructability of the human spirit and of our capacity to overcome hardships and obstacles.

“When you attend a Special Olympics games and watch the sheer joy and faces – not just of the athletes, but more overwhelmingly among spectators – you begin to realise there is much more at work than simply athletic competition. It is a profound statement of inclusion – that everybody matters, everybody counts, every life has value and every person has worth.”

The week-long Games, which brought together 2,500 athletes, coaches and support teams from 29 countries, was a showcase of quality competition celebrating the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities. Over 400 competitions were played, with a total of 2253 medals, and 2205 ribbons of participation given out.

Mel Eustace, Athlete Games Ambassador said, “On behalf of all the athletes, we thank the Newcastle – Hunter community, and the 5,000 dedicated volunteers for welcoming and supporting us to achieve our personal best.”

The Games also held a number of fringe events throughout the week to create awareness about, and promote the better care of persons with intellectual disabilities. These include the Law Enforcement Torch Run®, Healthy Athletes®, Health Symposium, Young Athletes™ and Unified Sports® Experience. Athletes also took part in cultural activities such as a visiting wildlife parks and taking in some of Newcastle’s world famous beaches.

Special Olympics International CEO Janet Froetscher, and football legend Hidetoshi Nakata, attended the Games, along with other dignitaries and leaders from the Asia Pacific region to witness the inspiring power of sports to transform and enrich the lives of people with intellectual disabilities.

Chairman, Special Olympics Board, Mark Streeting said, “President Mandela taught us about the power of the human spirit. And as we honor this incredible man, we should all think about how we can continue his legacy through inspiring those in our communities to live in a way that respects others.”


About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is an international organization that changes lives through the power of sport by encouraging and empowering people with intellectual disabilities, promoting acceptance for all, and fostering communities of understanding and respect worldwide. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown from a few hundred athletes to more than 4 million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. 

The Asia Pacific region is headquartered in Singapore, to oversee the operations of the Special Olympics Movement in 27 countries from Afghanistan to the Pacific Islands excluding China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Mongolia and South Korea (these six countries make up the Special Olympics East Asia region). Special Olympics Asia Pacific is the second largest region (out of seven) in the world, serving more than 1.1 million people with intellectual disabilities. The region offers 28 Olympic-type sporting activities and in addition, Special Olympics initiatives in Health Athletes®, Unified Sports®, Young Athletes™, Project UNIFY and the Athlete Leadership Program.

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