Antwerp to Host 2014 Special Olympics European Games

“Games of the Heart” to Unite Europe in Celebration of the Skills and Abilities of Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities 

Antwerp Chosen as Host

Speaking at the launch event President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy

Belgium, Brussels: Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for athletes with intellectual disabilities announced today that Antwerp, Belgium will be the host of the 2014 Special Olympics European Games. 

Speaking at a press event near Brussels, President of the European Council Herman Van Rompuy pledged his support for the success of the 2014 Games: “The European Council congratulates Belgium on becoming the host of the 2014 Special Olympics European Games. As well as being a great sporting event, these Games will bring public attention across Europe to the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities, helping to change attitudes and break down barriers that can exclude them from the mainstream of the community”. 

Taking place from September 13th – 20th 2014, the Games will attract more than 2,000 athletes from 58 nations to compete in eleven Olympic-type sports over 10 days of competitions. More than 40,000 spectators are expected to visit the competitions taking place in the same world-class venues which hosted the 2006 Belgium National Games, while 4,000 volunteers will be recruited to support all activities. 

With free health screenings for athletes, a Youth Summit, Family Symposium and an art exhibition, the 2014 Games will also provide a venue for global discussions and action on the impact Special Olympics can have on the lives of people with intellectual disabilities. 

More than 200 million people worldwide have an intellectual disability, making it the largest disability group worldwide. Intellectual disability crosses racial, ethnic, educational, social and economic lines and can occur in any family. 



Games of the Heart

President Van Rompuy with athlete Evy Ploegaerts who helped design the official Games logo press button to reveal the logo (photo Olivier Melebeck)

According to Mary Davis, Regional President of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia: “’Games of the Heart’ is how we describe the 2014 Games as we invite communities to join our world of welcome – a world of inclusion and mutual respect, without bias or prejudice. I can’t think of a better place than Antwerp, Belgium to host these Games where Europe will unite through Sports.” 

Along with the President of the European Council, Mr Herman Van Rompuy and Mary Davis, Regional President of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, those who also spoke at today’s launch event included: Mr Guido Kestens, Chairman of the 2014 Special Olympics European Games Organising Committee, Mr Dirk Verhofstadt, CEO of 2014 Special Olympics European Games Organizing Committee and athlete Ms Evy Ploegaerts, who helped design the logo for the 2014 Games, gave a special presentation on her idea behind the logo design. 


Games Every Two Years

Guido Kestens, Chairman of the Games Organising Committee, Mary Davis, President Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia and Dirk Verhofstadt, CEO of the Games Organizing Committee sign official Games host declaration (photo Olivier Melebeck)

Special Olympics European Games take place every two years and would not be possible without the generous support from our corporate partners. Antwerp 2014 follows in the footsteps of Warsaw, Poland hosts of the 2010 Special Olympics European Games and Athens, Greece which hosted the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games. The Games will be the largest multi-sport event for people with intellectual disabilities in 2014. Partners for the 2014 Special Olympics European Games to date include: SD Works, Start People, BBDO Proximity, Porter Novelli, Provincy of Antwerp and City of Antwerp. 

For more information on Antwerp 2014 visit or follow or @SO2014_Antwerp on Twitter. 

About Special Olympics

Mary Davis and President Van Rompuy before the launch event (photo Olivier Melebeck)

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. 

Press Contact:

Maureen Rabbitt

Communications Director

Special Olympics Europe Eurasia

T:+353 87 786 6001