NBA Star John Amaechi leaps to launch all new learning disability sports initiative - Unified Sports®

John Amaechi OBE and students from Tower Hamlets College leap to launch the first Special Olympics GB Unified Sport Basketball session

MONDAY 27 FEBRUARY, LONDON: Former NBA star and England Basketball International, John Amaechi OBE, returned to the basketball court today to launch the Special Olympics Great Britain Unified Sports® programme. The programme offers people with learning disabilities the opportunity to play sport in the same team as those without learning disabilities for sports training and competition.

The Unified Sports® programme is run by Special Olympics GB and supported by Coca-Cola Great Britain and will see a series of coaching and competition sessions covering a variety of sports, delivered through sport centres, clubs and communities all over the country.

Special Olympics GB is the country’s largest sports training and competition programme which transforms the lives of young people and adults with learning disabilities through the power of sport.

Amaechi, a Special Olympics GB ambassador and England Commonwealth Games medallist, visited Tower Hamlets College in East London this morning to take part in the first Unified Basketball session of this initiative. He called on young people around the country not to exclude those with learning disabilities in the run up to such an exciting summer of sport and encouraged them to get involved with their local Special Olympics GB’s Unified Sports® projects by visiting

Basketball is one of the sports that will now be supported through the Unified Sports® programme. Others include volleyball, table tennis, tennis and sailing. The addition of new sports to the initiative builds on the success of the charity’s Unified Football programme, which has established itself as one of the best inclusive models to benefit and empower people with learning disabilities.

The growth of the Unified Sports® programme this year forms part of the long-term partnership between Coca-Cola Great Britain and Special Olympics GB, which aims to make a range of sports more accessible for people with learning disabilities, empowering them and their families to take an active and more confident role in their communities. 

“Unified Sports programmes will play a valuable role in breaking down the barriers to sport that exist for people with learning disabilities enabling them to compete in popular sports on the same team as those without learning disabilities and in an environment that promotes equality and inclusion.  With such a great range of sports to choose from now everyone can get involved. As we’ve shown here today, it can be a lot of fun,” – John Amaechi OBE.

“The London 2012 Olympics and Paralympic Games are the most exciting opportunities we have as a Worldwide Partner to engage young people and help to build a legacy of increased grassroots sports participation. Building on our 34 year history of support for Special Olympics GB by helping them expand their Unified Sports programme, we hope to make it easier for people with learning disabilities to take part and compete in sport in their communities and to inspire young people everywhere - with and without learning disabilities - to participate together.” - Jon Woods, General Manager, Coca-Cola Great Britain & Ireland.

John Amaechi OBE and students from Tower Hamlets College leap to launch the first Special Olympics GB Unified Sport Basketball session

“With such an exciting year of sport ahead, young people around the country are being inspired to take up new sports, but for the 1.2million people in the UK with learning disabilities it’s not always easy to take part as they can often encounter exclusion and discrimination. The model of Unified Sports – bringing together athletes with and without learning disabilities – has been proven to overcome these difficulties and promote social inclusion. With many team sports to choose from, the Unified Sports programme will offer fun and fitness for thousands more people.”- Karen Wallin, CEO Special Olympics GB.

Tower Hamlets College was chosen as the venue for the launch because of its commitment to disability sports. Last year the College launched the FE Special Games, a disability sports tournament, which was sponsored by Special Olympics GB.

“We are committed to giving our students and local community the opportunity to try things that otherwise they would never have had the chance to. Our students have thoroughly enjoyed the chance to learn from such an esteemed sportsman, and be a part of the Special Olympics new Unified Sports programme.”- Michael Farley, Principal of Tower Hamlets College.

To find out more about Unified Sports® visit

For further information:

Sarah Kendall at M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment on
Tel: 07793 124 810
Jason Cornwell, Football & Unified Sport ® Manager Tel: 0207 375 7616 or email
Maureen Rabbitt, Director of Communications, Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia


Special Olympics Great Britain: Transforming Lives through Sport
Special Olympics Great Britain is the country’s largest provider of everyday, year-round sports training and competition for adults and children with learning disabilities, regardless of their ability. Special Olympics encourages every individual to become more self-confident, while improving their fitness, health and wellbeing by taking part, training and competing in 24 Olympic sports.

For almost 35 years, Special Olympics GB has transformed the lives of nearly 8,000 athletes in 135 clubs across England, Scotland and Wales, supported by a dedicated army of over 2,800 volunteers. By 2013 the charity hopes to grow the programme to 20,000 athletes involving 6,000 volunteers.

Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization providing year-round training and competition for more than 3.5 million children and adults with intellectual disabilities in over 175 countries.

Tower Hamlets College
Tower Hamlets College is a Further Education College catering for 16 – 19 year olds and adult students. The courses it offers cover a wide spectrum of vocational and academic subjects, including construction, business and computing, hairdressing and A Levels. Its Foundation Learning programme is specifically designed for students with learning difficulties and disabilities, helping them develop the work and social skills needed for independent living or supported employment.