Twenty-three delegations from across Europe and beyond will gather from 13 – 18 May for the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games, the first international Special Olympics event in Europe since the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Malta wants to reaffirm itself as a trailblazer of inclusion. Individuals with intellectual disabilities were disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and the forthcoming Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022 will be a great opportunity for all of our athletes,” said Anna Calleja, National Director for Special Olympics Malta. “With the financial and technical support of the Maltese public authorities, we've come a long way to put together what we hope would be memorable Games that will 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.”
Organized in partnership with the Government of Malta and Sports Malta, the Invitational Games will offer Special Olympics athletes the chance to meet with their international competitors for the first time in almost two years.
“I joined Special Olympics when I was only 10 years old, and it’s been seven beautiful years!” shares 17-year-old athlete Sam Micallef. “I am looking forward to meeting my friends from other countries, enjoying the competition and showing all the citizens in Malta who we are and what we are able to do.”
Outside of sports, the event will also offer free Healthy Athletes screenings covering Fun Fitness, Special Smiles and Fit Feet. These health screenings allow Special Olympics athletes to check in with healthcare professionals who have received training for treating people with intellectual disabilities.
The Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games will also showcase 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 skill levels.
“We're looking forward to providing a platform for all athletes to showcase their abilities, resilience, and perseverance. We're excited to see athletes that are used to setbacks demonstrate their extraordinary abilities and show everyone how a human can become even stronger through the adversity of everyday life. Athletes will provide real-life lessons on the real meaning of respect, love, and friendship in a very warm, peaceful, and inclusive environment.”
The Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games will also address inclusion and the situation for people with disabilities on an academic level. On 13 and 14 May, Special Olympics will host a University Forum in which professors, students and experts will discuss the most pressing issues people with intellectual disabilities face in sport and in the educational system.
Speaking about the upcoming Games, David Evangelista, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Europe Eurasia, noted, ”These Games will celebrate the human spirit, human dignity and the ideas of Europe: unity, inclusion and solidarity. COVID-19 has been such a disrupting element around the world, but we are now ready to usher in a new era of inclusion in Malta, in Europe and beyond with these Games.”
Perhaps the 2022 Malta Games could be best summarized by Special Olympics Malta swimmer, Sam Micallef.
“Let’s get back in the field and show everyone that we are still here, and nothing will stop us,” Sam said. “We athletes are the real messengers of peace, unity, and love.”