Special Olympics Romania reached a remarkable milestone with its 20th-anniversary celebration, featuring a range of activities on 7 – 8 November, including a reception hosted by Romanian President Klaus Iohannis at the Cotroceni Palace in Bucharest, where athletes, dignitaries, and partnering organizations converged.
Klaus Iohannis acknowledged and honoured the outstanding work of Special Olympics Romania by presenting a presidential award and decoration for ‘promoting human rights and social engagement’ in recognition of their two decades of dedicated service to the country.
He said: "I was happy to welcome, at the Cotroceni Palace, some of the Special Olympics Romania athletes, to celebrate together the 20 years that this Foundation has been making significant efforts to support people with special needs and their families.
“Inclusion is a goal that we must achieve at the level of the entire society and in all aspects of our lives, and the Special Olympics movement actively contributes to the achievement of this goal. Through the activities that you carry out, you change mentalities, eliminate prejudices, and promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity.
"These brave athletes are role models for the whole society, and their positive attitude, self-confidence and courage to face any challenge is an inspiration for us all.
“Every time they compete, they win us over with incredible stories and impressive performances that move us and motivate us to believe that what sometimes seems insurmountable is possible when you don't give up and work hard to achieve your goals. I wish them to be as brave as they have been so far and to continue to push themselves!"
Also present at the celebration was a delegation from Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia, led by its President and Managing Director David Evangelista. He said, "We are deeply honoured to participate in this historic occasion. Special Olympics is dedicated to fostering a more inclusive world, and Special Olympics Romania has been a key partner in achieving this goal.
“We extend our heartfelt gratitude to President Klaus Iohannis and the Romanian government for their unwavering support, and we are deeply appreciative of our partners in the country, including Lions Clubs, and Motivation Romania."
Subsequently, a meeting with representatives from Lions Clubs District 124 Romania provided a valuable platform for discussions. Lions Clubs representative and Governor Marin Florin Ilies, shared his thoughts on the partnership, saying, “We can really change lives together and bring happiness to the face of Special Olympics athletes. Lions Clubs has been present here supporting since the first National Games. We, Lions Clubs members, have the possibility to continue to support and raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement through our communities.”
The joint delegation comprising representatives from Special Olympics Europe Eurasia and Special Olympics Romania also met UNICEF Romania Representative Anna Riatti aiming for the enhancement of collaboration between the two organizations. Anna Riatti said, “We must ensure that quality services are available to every child with a disability throughout Romania, and Special Olympics can be a valuable partner for UNICEF in realizing this vision.”
One of the most anticipated events part of the celebration was a Unified Basketball game, followed by gymnastics and dance exhibitions, where Special Olympics Romania athletes showcased their skills and sportsmanship. These activities truly embodied the spirit of inclusivity and teamwork, highlighting the incredible talents of those with intellectual disabilities.
SO Romania National Director Cristian Ispas added, “In 20 years, thousands of lives have been changed through the transformative power of sport and education, ranging from health and advocacy programs to training sessions for teachers, coaches, athletes and students.
"Special Olympics Romania athletes represented the country at nine editions of the World Games and four editions of the European Games, bringing home 220 medals. They have become champions of inclusion in a society that has learned to accept, integrate, validate their abilities and performance."