Athletes with Intellectual Disabilities Gather in Sweden for Special Olympics International Winter Sports Event

Athletes from 19 countries set to join Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games in Östersund and Åre.

From 1st to 4th February 2020, Östersund and Åre will welcome over 450 athletes from 19 countries to the Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games. Comprising four action-packed days of sports competitions, the Invitational Games—made possible by support from the Erasmus+ programme of the European Union—will be this year’s biggest event for people with intellectual disabilities in Sweden.

A group of Swedish athletes in a group cheering; at the bottom of the photo is the logo for Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games 2020 Östersund and Åre

David Evangelista, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President and Managing Director, said the event provided a great platform to showcase the power of the Special Olympics movement in Sweden. “Special Olympics Europe Eurasia is thrilled to welcome athletes from across the world to Östersund and Åre for the Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games. Each of you has travelled your own unique path to be here to compete, and I believe the journey is only just beginning! We can’t wait to see you in action and to watch our movement grow across Sweden and worldwide as more and more people discover the power of Special Olympics through these Games!”

The Games will be spread between Åre—with competitions in Down Hill Skiing and Snowboarding—and Östersund—with Short Track Speed Skating, Figure Skating, Cross Country Skiing and Snowshoe running. Of the 450 athletes competing, some 270 are travelling to Sweden from overseas—from as far afield as Hong Kong and as close to home as Norway!

“Snowshoe running is something that we’ve been particularly highlighting,” says Gerda Nilsson Tjernström, Games Manager for the Invitational Games. “It’s an easy sport that allows us to reach out and engage more athletes, encouraging them to get involved in Special Olympics Sweden.”

One of the main objectives of the Sweden Invitational Games is to get more people active in sports clubs. This is a key element in the long-term effort by the Swedish Parasport Federation and the public health sector which wants to promote better health for people with intellectual disabilities.

It is estimated that 100,000 Swedish people have an intellectual disability. People with intellectual disabilities often experience poorer quality and diminished access to health services. For example, 52 percent of people with intellectual disabilities in Sweden are obese.

During the Invitational Games, all competing athletes, as well as approximately one hundred people with intellectual disabilities from the Jämtland Härjedalen region, will take part in the Healthy Athletes programme. Healthy Athletes is a Special Olympics health screening activity designed for people with intellectual disabilities. It provides free health screenings in eight areas: Fit Feet (podiatry), FUNfitness (physical therapy), Health Promotion (better health and well-being), Healthy Hearing (audiology), MedFest (sports physical exam), Special Olympics-Lions Clubs International Opening Eyes (vision), Special Smiles (dentistry), Strong Minds (emotional well-being). At the Invitational Games, Healthy Athletes is being organised in cooperation with the Mid Sweden University.

“Data from previous Healthy Athletes screenings shows that Swedish athletes have more health issues than athletes from other Special Olympics programmes,” says Johan Strid, National Director Special Olympics Sweden. “The Sweden Invitational Games and Healthy Athletes are the perfect platform to launch of Special Olympics Sweden’s long-term health initiative.”

Additional Information:

  • The Opening Ceremony of the Sweden Invitational Games will be held at Stortorget in central Östersund at 7pm on the 1st of February. The event is free of charge and open to the public.
  • Schedule for the games: https://swe2021.org/program/
  • Members of the media should register for accreditation by emailing: press@swe2021.org

About Special Olympics

Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, IKEA Foundation, the Lane Family, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.

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