With the world in lockdown over the past months, Special Olympics programmes across Europe Eurasia were forced to cancel or postpone activities to protect the health of athletes and their families. Nevertheless, our teams—led by our athletes—worked tirelessly to make sure their followers would not feel isolated through online activities, messages and inspiration. Special Olympics Italy, Belgium and the Netherlands, brought online engagement to the next level with Online National Games!
Smart Games in Italy
At the end of April, Special Olympics Italy announced the first virtual games in Europe—Smart Games, an online competition for the athletes to replace the Summer National Games.
From 10 to 31 May 2020, almost 5,000 athletes from every region registered for the championship and competed in 18 different disciplines: athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, football, canoeing, karate, gymnastics, golf, swimming, horse riding, volleyball, snowshoeing, rugby, snowboarding, tennis and table tennis. The coaches and national technical staff presented challenges for each sport with short videos that were published on the social media channels of Special Olympics Italy; and the athletes were free to take up the challenges and upload their own videos showing off their incredible talent!
From video messages by Olympic legends like Valentina Vezzali and Filippo Magnini, to the volunteers and families who cheered and commented on social media, everyone contributed to the success of the Smart Games. Backed by its community and partners, Special Olympics Italy was able to bring a ray of sunshine in their struggling country.
Virtual Games in Belgium
21 May 2020 marked the first day of the Virtual Games. Almost 12,000 athletes from Special Olympics Belgium participated in this two-day digital event and competed in ten challenges for five different sports: athletics, cycling, football, racket sports and swimming. Everyone was welcome to join in the Games and demonstrate their skills by simply uploading a video of their performance on social media. The competition was launched with a video featuring five sporting legends: tennis champion Yanina Wickmayer, Olympic runner Dylan Borlée, 2016 Olympic road champion Greg Van Avermaet, Olympic swimmer Fanny Lecluyse and football coach Roberto Martínez.
The event was extensively covered by both print and online media across the country, and it also drew the attention of some television channels, including Sporza, the national sports channel!
Online Games in the Netherlands
From 12 to 14 June, Special Olympics Netherlands will be the latest country to go online with their games! Fresh from the success of their brand new fitness app, the team in the Netherlands decided to open their social media platforms to a three-day digital competition. Athletes from across the country will be called on to demonstrate their sporting prowess and challenge each other from the comfort of their own homes.
Special Olympics Netherlands Online Games will kick off at 8pm on 12 June 2020 with an exciting Opening Ceremony and continue throughout the weekend. Partners and top sports figures, including footballer Nathan Rutjes and road racing cyclist Bas Tietema, are keen to get involved. We cannot wait to see what the Dutch team has in store for our athletes!
Virtual Championship in Romania
Special Olympics Romania also developed an online alternative to the National Games: the Special Olympics Romania Virtual Fitness Championship, a hugely successful summer competition involving 145 athletes from across the country!
Throughout July, the competitors joined online fitness sessions, worked through challenges set by coaches and judges and shared their progress and best performances on social media!
Olympics legend and Special Olympics Global Ambassador, Nadia Comaneci shared a heartfelt and inspiring message for the athletes to encourage them to give their best. Although the athletes could not be together in person, they enjoyed many of the rituals of any National Games, including a virtual parade of athletes, a closing award ceremony and a lively virtual dance party!