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Special Olympics Announces Additions to International Board of Directors

Board of Directors Unanimously votes Graz/Schladming (Styria, Austria) to host 2017 World Winter Games 

Washington, D.C. – Special Olympics International Board of Directors meeting held in Panama City, Panama in conjunction with the Special Olympics Central American & Caribbean Games concluded on April 17 focusing discussions on achieving the organization’s 2015 Strategic Plan goals.


Special Olympics welcomed several new members to its Board of Directors, Yao Ming, NBA player and Special Olympics Global Ambassador; Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Chairman of the Global UN Partnership for Inclusive Information and Communications Technologies and President of the International Rehabilitation Foundation; Andrew N. Liveris, Chairman and CEO of The Dow Chemical Company; Enrique Borja, Mexican Footballer and Mexico’s Football Hall of Fame member.  Also returning to Special Olympics International Board are longtime Special Olympics supporters Olympic Gold Medalist Nadia Comaneci, actress and entertainer Vanessa Williams, and figure skating champion and Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton.


As part of the April meeting, the Board of Directors unanimously voted Graz/Schladming (Styria, Austria) as the host of the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games.  Europe has a deep rooted history in winter sports and Special Olympics World Games have not been held on the continent in over 20 years.  Austria’s bid to host the 2017 Winter Games demonstrated their strong capability to host a world class event for Special Olympics and to advance the key priorities of the Special Olympics movement.


The Special Olympics International Board of Directors is the ultimate governing authority for the Special Olympics movement and is composed of leaders in the areas of business, government, disability, sports and entertainment. The Board is responsible for the global affairs and strategies of Special Olympics; determines its policies and programs and oversees all top-level management. Board Directors are elected to a three-year term and may be re-elected twice - for a maximum of nine consecutive years of service.

“Special Olympics is very fortunate to have such passionate and dedicated leaders serve on our International Board of Directors,” said Brady Lum, President and COO of Special Olympics. “Each board member is a valuable and integral asset to furthering our mission.”

Brief biographies of the new members are listed below, and for a complete list of current Special Olympics International Board Members please visit the website.


  • Enrique Borja, Mexican Footballer and Mexican Football Hall of Fame member:  Enrique Borja Garcia was recently inducted into Mexico’s Football Hall of Fame, joining a world-class family of football legends in receiving this honor.  During his professional career, Borja scored 31 goals as a striker for the Mexican national team and was part of the team that competed in the 1966 and 1970 World Cups. He was the top scorer of the Mexican league in 1970-1971 (24 goals), in 1971-1972 (26 goals) and in 1972-1973 (20 goals). Borja has served as club president of Necaxa, president of the Federación Mexicana de Fútbol Asociación, and, most recently, as club president of Tigres de la Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León.  Borja has been actively involved with Special Olympics Mexico since 1987, serving a Vice Chairman of the Board. He was recently invited to serve on the Special Olympics Global Football Advisory Board and is currently the Executive Director of Strategic Alliance for CONCACAF.

  • Nadia Comaneci, Olympic Gold Medalist: Special Olympics Global Ambassador Nadia Comaneci is an Olympic gold medalist andworld renowned gymnast. Comaneci was inducted into the International Gymnastics Hall of Fame in 1993, and has twice (1984, 2004) received the Olympic Order, the most prestigious award given by the International Olympic Committee. In 1999, ABC News and Ladies Home Journal named her as one of the 100 Most Important Women of the 20th Century. She and husband Bart Conner are owners of the Bart Conner Gymnastics Academy, and also have an involvement with International Gymnast magazine, Perfect 10 Productions, Inc. (television production) and Grips, Etc. (gymnastics supplies). Comaneci also supports the Nadia Comaneci Gymnastics School in her hometown of Onesti, Romania.

  • Ambassador Luis Gallegos, Chairman Global UN Partnership for Inclusive Information and Communications Technologies and President of the International Rehabilitation Foundation: Luis Gallegos was honoured by the Congress of Ecuador for his work in Human Rights and for his leadership in the promotion and protection of Human Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Ambassador Gallegos is also a recipient of the “Justice for All Disabilities Rights Award.”He served as ambassador from Ecuador to the United States from 2005 until 2011. He has been Vice-president of the Commission of Human Rights, Geneva 1998, and has served in a variety of key UN posts.  He was the Chairman of the Ad-Hoc Committee on a Comprehensive and Integral International Convention to Promote and Protect the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities. He is, in his personal capacity, an expert member of the UN Committee against Torture and other Cruel and Inhuman Treatments.

  • Andrew N. Liveris, CEO, DOW Chemical: Andrew N. Liveris is President, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Dow Chemical Company, a $60 billion global specialty chemical, advanced materials, agrosciences and plastics company based in Midland, Michigan. Liveris' 36-year Dow career has spanned manufacturing, engineering, sales, marketing, and business and general management. An advocate for the criticality of manufacturing to the long-term health of a nation's economy, Liveris serves as Co-Chair of President Obama's Advanced Manufacturing Partnership in the United States, and is the author of Make It in America, a book which presents a comprehensive set of practical policy solutions and business strategies that outlines the Company's vision for an 'Advanced Manufacturing' economy. Liveris has been honored with the 2011 Distinguished Performance Award for Excellence in Public Policy from the Committee for Economic Development, the 2011 International Leadership Award from the United States Council for International Business (USCIB) and the 2011 Legend in Leadership by the Yale Chief Executive Leadership Institute.Named Platts Global Energy Awards CEO of the Year (2011), and as one of the greatest influential people in the global chemical markets (ICIS Chemical Business magazine December 2010/2011), Liveris sits on the board of directors of IBM, and is vice chairman of the Business Council, and a vice chair of the Business Roundtable. He serves as president and chairman of the Board of the International Council of Chemical Associations. Liveris is a member of the U.S. President's Export Council, the US-India CEO Forum, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, and the American Australian Association. He serves on the board of trustees for The Herbert H. and Grace A. Dow Foundation, USCIB, and Tufts University.

  • Yao Ming, Retired NBA All-Star: Special Olympics Global Ambassador Yao Ming began his basketball career playing for the Shanghai Sharks, but after leading them to a victory in the CBA championship at the age of 22, he became the No. 1 drafted player in the NBA. During his career, Yao Ming has been selected as an NBA all-star in all eight of his seasons, and through his hard work has developed into one of the best centers in the NBA, earning All-NBA recognition five times. In addition, as a key player on the Chinese national basketball team, Yao Ming has played in 3 Olympic Games from 2000 to 2008, leading the national team to its best record in China’s history. Through his great influence as a worldwide superstar, Yao Ming has become a bridge between China and America. He has shown the West the wisdom, honesty and diligence of the Chinese people and thereby brought China closer to the rest of the world. Moreover, Yao Ming has been proactively involved in charity and public welfare activities including his founding of the “Yao Foundation” in May of 2008. This foundation is aimed at helping children find warmth and hope in life.

  • Vanessa Williams, Celebrity and Entertainer: Special Olympics Global Ambassador Vanessa Williams is one of the most respected and multi-faceted performers in entertainment today.  She has conquered the musical charts, Broadway, television and motion pictures.  She has sold over 15 million albums worldwide and she has achieved critical acclaim as an actress on stage, in film and on television. Her albums have earned multiple Grammy nominations and have yielded such classic hits as “the Academy Award-winning single “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s “Pocahontas.”  On Broadway, Williams was nominated for a Tony Award for the 2002 revival of “Into the Woods.” Most recently, Williams has achieved remarkable success on television with her work on ABC’s “Desperate Housewives” and “Ugly Betty,” where she earned three Emmy nominations. In December 2010, the International Press Academy honored Williams with their prestigious Mary Pickford Award for her career achievements over the past 27 years. In 2007, Williams achieved a career pinnacle, with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her accomplishments as a performer.  Her charitable endeavors are many and varied, embracing and supporting such organizations as Special Olympics and many others.  Along with Mario Frangoulis, she was the main host of the opening ceremony of the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, held in Athens, Greece.

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 nearly four million athletes in over 170 countries in all regions of the world, providing year-round sports training, athletic competition and other related programs. Special Olympics now takes place every day, changing the lives of people with intellectual disabilities all over the world, from community playgrounds and ball fields in every small neighborhood’s backyard to World Games. Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities continuing opportunities to realize their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship. Special Olympics continues to grow thanks in part to the support of global corporate sponsors including The Coca-Cola Company, Procter & Gamble, Hilton Worldwide, Mattel and Lions Club International.  Visit Special Olympics at www.specialolympics.org. Engage with us on: Twitter @specialolympics; fb.com/specialolympics; youtube.com/specialolympicshq, and specialolympicsblog.wordpress.com



Kristin Hughes

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