Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
In the News

Malta Hosts First International Special Olympics Event in Europe Since Pandemic

Young men dressed in red and white football kits and wearing gold medals line up with arms around each other smiling in front of promotional poster for Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022.
The gold medal winning Special Olympics Gibraltar football team celebrate their victory with Special Olympics President and Managing Director David Evangelista at the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022 (14 – 18 May). Photo: Claire Behan.

“Let’s get back in the field and show everyone that we are still here, and nothing will stop us. We athletes are the real messengers of peace, unity, and love.”

Special Olympics Malta swimmer, Sam Micallef, shared this powerful message ahead of the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022, a multisport competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities, which took place from 14 to 18 May.

Involving 23 delegations from across Europe and beyond, these Games were the first international Special Olympics event in Europe since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Special Olympics Malta welcomed athletes to compete in six different sports disciplines: aquatics, athletics, bocce, bowling, football, and table tennis.

Action photo of three swimmers wearing swimming caps in three different lanes in a swimming pool surging forward as water splashes behind them.
Swimmers in action on the final day of the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022 (14 – 18 May). Photo: Special Olympics Malta.

Lydia Abela, President of Special Olympics Malta, reflected on the Games. 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 for Special Olympics Malta, added, “Malta reaffirmed itself as a trailblazer of inclusion. Individual COVID-19 pandemic and the Games were a great opportunity for all of our athletes.” She continued, “Thanks to the financial and technical support of the Maltese public authorities, these were a truly memorable games that place Malta as the natural home for disability inclusion and ready to usher in a new era of true social inclusion in Europe and beyond.”

A man with his arms around two women in the forefront smiles as a large golden torch lights and fireworks go off in the night sky behind them.
Anna Calleja, National Director of Special Olympics Malta, David Evangelista, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia and Lydia Abela, President of Special Olympics Malta at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022.

Organized in partnership with the Government of Malta and Sports Malta, the Invitational Games offered Special Olympics athletes the chance to meet with their international competitors for the first time in almost two years.

Speaking about the Games, Reagan Lowman, a bowler with Special Olympics Texas said, “I’ve loved it because it gives me a chance to do something that many people thought I would not be able to do and it gives me freedom.”

Special Olympics Israel coach, Gon Tzuri, added, “You can find the spirit of Special Olympics here at the Games in Malta. It’s an amazing place—the perfect day, perfect weather, perfect people. For me, the most important thing is that the athletes have enjoyed the Games. By just being here, they have already won.”

A large group dressed in red and black stand together in the middle of a street with their arms outstretched in celebration and a sign reading ‘Oesterreich’ in front of them.
Athletes of Special Olympics Austria walk in the Parade of Athletes ahead of the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022.

Outside of the sports arena, the event also offered free Healthy Athletes health screenings covering FUNfitness, Special Smiles and Fit Feet. These screenings allow Special Olympics athletes to check in with healthcare professionals who have received training for treating people with intellectual disabilities and they are carried out in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere.

The Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games also showcased the activities of the Special Olympics Motor Activity Training Program and Young Athletes. While the latter focuses on those athletes still too young to participate in the regular competitions, the former is designed to prepare athletes with severe or profound intellectual disabilities and significant physical disabilities for sport-specific activities appropriate for their ability levels.

The Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games also addressed inclusion and the situation for people with disabilities on an academic level. On 11 May, Special Olympics hosted an University Forum—in which professors, students and experts discussed the most pressing issues people with intellectual disabilities face in sport and in the educational system.

As the Games came to a close, David Evangelista, President and Managing of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, noted, “These Games celebrated the human spirit and human dignity—they celebrated the ideas of Europe: unity, inclusion, and solidarity. COVID-19 has been such a disrupting element around the world, but these Games have shown that we are now ready to usher in a new era of inclusion in Malta, in Europe and beyond.”

Recommended Content
Twenty-three delegations from across Europe and beyond will gather from 13 – 18 May for the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games.
2 Min Read
The Government of Malta has officially signed its commitment to host the Special Olympics Invitational Games Malta 2022, an event which will see over 450 athletes from across Europe and beyond gather to compete in various sports next year.
1 Min Read
They held come-and-try sessions in golf, hockey and football, as well as Young Athletes and Healthy Athletes promotion sessions.
1 Min Read