Specifically, the Games would not have been possible without the immense support of the Government of Malta and SportMalta who funded the event, as well as that of key advocates at all levels of public life, First Lady of Malta and President of Special Olympics Malta, Dr. Lydia Abela and European Union Commissioner for Equality, Helena Dalli. Support for visiting delegations was also key with U.S. Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) to Malta Gwendolyn “Wendy” Green not only leading one of the Special Olympics delegation in the Parade of Athletes, but also supporting the Games before and on the ground throughout.
Speaking at the Games, Dr. Lydia Abela, President of Special Olympics Malta, reflected on why the event attracted such widespread support from partners. She noted, “This event showcased the willpower, the strength, the determination and the commitment of people with intellectual disabilities. Malta was honored to showcase these Games. For our nation, it was the perfect opportunity to show how much we value unity and to celebrate diversity and inclusion. The athletes had a mission in Malta—that mission was to show the world that sport has the power to bring people together and it is better when we are together!”
Anna Calleja, National Director of Special Olympics Malta, worked tirelessly and hand in hand with partners, the Government of Malta and SportMalta to bring the Games to fruition. She noted, “We were working in a difficult and different environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The support of the Government and SportMalta not only allowed us to make progress across projects and in the refurbishment of infrastructure at venues, but also in the delivery of a top class and well-organized Games.”
She added, “Having the support of the Government is huge when it comes to Special Olympics Malta. The fact that the Government is in supporting Special Olympics athletes sends a strong message of inclusion, equality, accountability and trust. Having the support of the Government is setting the bar high, and recognizes us as a National Sport body.”
David Evangelista, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, also underlined how crucial the support of high-level partners was for the country, the region and Special Olympics globally. He said, “The Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games represent a significant milestone for the movement. As the athletes, and the global community, continue to navigate the pandemic, it is the power of partnership that brought forth this remarkable event of unity, peace and inclusion to the world. The deep partnership forged with the national government of the Republic of Malta, SportMalta, the office of Dr. Lydia Abela and many more made possible not only the Games but a lasting, exciting legacy that stands to enrich Malta, Europe and the world through the example set by the athletes of Special Olympics.”
He added, “The movement of Special Olympics is deeply grateful also for the partnership with the Honorable Commissioner Helena Dalli, as well as key movement partners such as Coca Cola Company, Lions Clubs International Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, and many more in making these Games a most memorable and empowering experience at a time when the world needed it most!”
International representatives in Malta also worked to ensure the success of the Games. For U.S. Chargé d’Affaires (CDA) to Malta Gwendolyn “Wendy” Green, it was vital to show her support both before and throughout the event.
CDA Green noted, “These Invitational Games in Malta are highly valued by my U.S. embassy team. We have been working in partnership with Special Olympics Malta and Europe for over two years to support this dream. In the lead up to this effort, we teamed up with Special Olympics Malta to welcome a U.S. Sports Envoy delegation, which included Olympic swimmer Donna de Varona and Alec Heuermann, a U.S. Special Olympics World Games double-silver medalist, to deliver a week-long program packed with swimming clinics and educational presentations to promote inclusion in sports.”
CDA Green added, “This partnership is invaluable in advancing inclusion and diversity. We are thrilled to see Malta hosting this international effort and thrilled to see American athletes traveling all the way from Florida and Texas to participate in it.”