11 May 2022 – Last week, Special Olympics participated in the Badminton World Federation’s 10th Members’ Forum and Annual General Meeting in Bangkok, Thailand.
Special Olympics International and the Badminton World Federation (BWF) signed a Memorandum of Understanding in 2019 to increase the growth, quality, and frequency of badminton participation. In 2020, they published their Global Badminton Development Strategy to continue to grow the sport across the Special Olympics movement. Prior to the pandemic, more than 370,000 players were engaged with the game around the world, and its popularity is increasingly growing among Special Olympics athletes.
The BWF believes badminton is a sport for all which can be accessed anywhere, anytime and with limited equipment requirements. They also believe the sport can break down social, cultural, and economic barriers to provide meaningful competitive and non-competitive participation opportunities for all, regardless of age, gender, physical or intellectual impairment, race, or socio-economic status.
Maggie Brennan, a Sport Development Manager for Special Olympics International, was on-hand in Thailand to speak at the Members Forum on the impact of COVID-19 on Special Olympics and the development of badminton.
“Over the past two years, Special Olympics has committed to doing everything possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19 across our community—which includes athletes, coaches, volunteers, and staff. Like many other sports organizations, Special Olympics cancelled all sport training and competition activities, and other activations involving our athletes around the world,” Maggie said. “Now that sports are beginning to resume, we’re fortunate to have great partners in badminton, who have helped keep the sport moving forward in Special Olympics despite the challenging impact of the pandemic.”
The theme of the BWF Members’ Forum was “Navigating Through the Pandemic.” Despite the Pandemic, Special Olympics UAE and the UAE Badminton Federation demonstrated the power of sport partnerships in Plenary Session 2, showing badminton as an inclusive sport for all. Later in the day at the inaugural BWF Member Association Awards, the two organizations won the Inclusion Award.
"We feel proud to secure this award jointly with UAE Badminton Federation, it really crowns 24 months of great collaboration to advance the knowledge and love of Badminton among our athletes, coaches, and the entire Special Olympics UAE community. We completely see the impact that this program had on our athletes; their excitement at every event, the sheer joy and sense of inclusion is very fulfilling and indicated, very early on, that we were on the right track to achieve something ground-breaking with this program. Special Olympics UAE was the first national Special Olympics to sign a [World Games Training] pledge with a local Badminton Federation and our success really sets the tone and we hope to see similar programs rolled out worldwide and thousands of athletes everywhere. We thank our partners at the UAE Badminton Federation for their unwavering commitment to this program and BWF for recognizing its impact with this award."
The excitement carried through the following day ahead of the BWF’s Annual General Meeting. Special Olympics Thailand & the Badminton Association of Thailand signed the World Games Training Pledge, aimed at working together to best prepare athletes from Thailand who will be representing their country in badminton at the World Games in Berlin next summer.
This June at the USA Games in Orlando, Florida, badminton activation will be featured in the athletes’ village as an educational opportunity for athletes and coaches to help grow the sport in the United States.
And on 5 July, Special Olympics International will again partner with the BWF to celebrate World Badminton Day, an opportunity for players and novices alike to take up their rackets and play.
Maggie Brennan said the opportunities for badminton’s growth within the Special Olympics community are limitless.
“We’re excited to watch badminton continue to grow and flourish in our movement. People with intellectual and developmental disabilities deserve to have access to the sport of their choice. That is why partners like BWF and their members, helping us ensure that badminton can be played by all, is vital to our mission,” Maggie said. “Our Special Olympics athletes not only get to play badminton, but are included in the greater badminton community and recognized as badminton players, regardless of ability level.”