At the 2003 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland we had the overwhelming honour of having President Mandela address and celebrate our athletes at the Opening Ceremony with the following statement:
“Few things in life could have given me greater pleasure or brought me more honour than to be associated with the Special Olympics. I regard myself privileged to be here on this occasion. Special Olympics is a testament to the indestructibility of the human spirit. Many of you have suffered great disadvantage in your lives…you serve as an example and inspiration…you, the athletes are the ambassadors of the greatest of humankind. You inspire us to know that all obstacles to human achievement and progress are surmountable.”
At these games he also shared his vision for Africa of Unified Sports™ which the entire movement is now embracing. He indicated that:
"Sport has the power to change the world…it has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does."
I am proud to say that his vision was realised in Africa with the hosting of the first ever Special Olympics “Unity Cup” during the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa and the Regional Unity Cup held in 2012.
Although this global icon has passed away, his spirit and determination lives on through our athletes each day and at every competition.
Our prayers go out to his family and to the people of South Africa and I leave you with these words for all of us to live by from this great man:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead."