The 2023 Special Olympics European Sports Conference convened in Torino, Italy from October 18th to 21st, bringing together a robust group of over 100 sports directors and managers representing more than 40 National Programs, as well as Regional Sports Directors from across all continents.
Hosted by Special Olympics Italy and funded by the European Union, this event served as a pivotal occasion for the exchange of ideas and strategies aimed at promoting sports inclusion for individuals with intellectual disabilities. It also served as a follow-up to Berlin 2023, with discussions focused on the legacy of the World Summer Games. Additionally, it was the platform where Special Olympics Europe Eurasia (SOEE) defined its sports priorities for the 2023 – 2025 period.
"The Special Olympics European Sports Conference exemplifies the continued strong growth in the Europe-Eurasia region. Our mission extends beyond providing a platform for athletes with intellectual disabilities to showcase their remarkable abilities. It's also about fostering a space where knowledge, expression and innovative ideas can reshape the landscape of sports. This conference is where those transformative ideas take form, and we are excited to see how they will impact the future of Special Olympics across our region."
The conference featured a diverse array of presentations, each offering invaluable insights into the advancement of sports in Europe. These engaging sessions spanned a wide spectrum of topics, encompassing discussions on European Union-funded projects, health and fitness initiatives, marketing and communications strategies and the promotion of Unified Sports.
Alessandra Palazzotti, Special Olympics Italy National Director, underscored the significance of this conference, especially since it was held in Italy, the host of the upcoming World Winter Games in 2025. This presented a unique opportunity for participants to engage in site visits to the various venues, gaining familiarity with the landscape and facilities.
She said, “It is crucial for us to have everyone present at this gathering. Due to the pandemic, it has been a long time since we last held a Sports Conference in the region. It is essential for our movement to come together, exchange ideas, and reflect on the legacy of the Berlin World Games. We are also delighted to have individuals from Special Olympics International (SOI) sharing their insights. Our movement is global, allowing us to connect with other regions and learn from their experiences.
“This Conference also holds great significance for us as we prepare for the World Winter Games in Italy in 2025. We recognize the extensive work ahead, and we are enthusiastic about the opportunity to make these Games the best they can be.”
Lou Lauria, Special Olympics International Chief of Sports and Competition, added, "As a Sport and Competition team, our time spent with the Regions and National Programs, and Athletes is foundational to our work. This week we focused on the data gathered from Berlin 2023 across sport, delegations, and celebrated the success of key initiatives such as the Sport Impact Standards while gaining valuable feedback in order to further improve the athlete and coach experience for the World Winter Games 2025 and beyond.”