The Fédération Internationale de Volleyball (FIVB) and Special Olympics International (SOI) have solidified their worldwide commitment to the cause of inclusion through sports with a series of events in Poland and Brazil in September and October 2023.
“These projects serve as a testament to the unifying power of volleyball on a global scale, reinforcing our commitment to promoting inclusion through our biggest events and other programmes. We are thrilled to be working alongside Special Olympics to fully realise this potential of our sport and promote our shared values of inclusivity, empowerment and promoting a healthy lifestyle.”
Special Olympics (SO) Poland’s team took centre stage on 23 September as they attended the volleyball match between the hosts and the USA in Lodz, Poland as part of the FIVB Women’s Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier.
During the warm-up session, SO Poland team members and Special Olympics representative Krzysztof Krukowski entered the court and presented a volleyball jersey and framed logo adorned with signatures from the team that competed at Berlin 2023 to Polish Volleyball Federation (PZPS) Vice-President Jacek Sęk. Also in attendance from Special Olympics were coach Radek Łypczak, athlete Piotr Bociek , and Unified Partner Magdalena Gwarda.
In the spirit of reciprocity and underscoring their enduring partnership, the PZPS donated a match ball to SO Poland, bearing the signatures of the Poland women's national team players.
As the crowd of 10,000 fans witnessed this heartfelt exchange, the announcer recounted the momentous signing of the MOU between the FIVB and Special Olympics in Berlin. Special Olympics Poland volleyball player Piotr Bociek, who captained the team to fourth place at Berlin 2023, said: “My brother, a professional volleyball player, has instilled love for volleyball within our entire family. Through Special Olympics, I've made many friends, forming a strong team alongside our coach. We receive invaluable support from our Unified partners, with whom we maintain off-court connections.”
“The ability to collaborate with sports federations such as the FIVB and participate in events like this one in Lodz holds great importance. This exposure allows more people to discover and engage with Special Olympics. Our participation in this tournament will also ensure media coverage, further amplifying our presence,” continued Bociek.
The jointly organized events continued in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. On 1 October, the Special Olympics Brazil team attended the volleyball match between Brazil and Czechia at the FIVB Men’s Road to Paris Volleyball Qualifier. The match’s announcer informed the crowd about the historic MOU signed in Berlin, symbolising their unity with the global volleyball community.
Brazilian Olympic volleyball legends, Giba and Serginho, alongside coach Rafael Ribeiro and athletes Raphael Carvalho and Lucas Dias Santos from Special Olympics, also attended for the commemorative uniform exchange ceremony.
Celebrations continued on 2 October, as Copacabana Beach became the epicentre of a Unified Volleyball event that captured the spirit of inclusivity and the joy of the sport. With Giba and Serginho and the Special Olympics Brazil team in attendance, the event featured demonstration matches and training sessions right on the sandy shores, facing the former Volleyball House and School from the Olympic Games Rio 2016.
Giba said: "The events in Brazil were a heartwarming demonstration of how volleyball can bring people of all backgrounds together. For Brazilians, beach volleyball is a way of life, so it is a really powerful tool to promote inclusivity across society. This has been a very special project and I am looking forward to supporting this important collaboration between the FIVB and Special Olympics across more projects in the future.
“It is great to see such a beloved sport in Brazil and Poland working to grow its community and educate others on how to make volleyball more inclusive for all. Volleyball has grown into the number 1 family sport in the world. This growth is just the beginning as families drive the Inclusion Revolution forward using sport as the platform to unite us all. The MOU between the FIVB and Special Olympics is a phenomenal platform for inclusion we hope to see and continue to promote inclusion through volleyball around the world.”
Expanding on these events, within the framework of the MOU signed in Berlin, the FIVB and Special Olympics are enthusiastic about their ongoing collaboration on a range of projects. These initiatives encompass knowledge transfer programmes, joint sponsorship endeavors, athlete cross-promotion, and joint efforts aimed at fostering the global development of volleyball.