Initially set for 2022, the Special Olympics World Winter Games Kazan has been postponed until January 2023 due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The Games dispel stereotypes and challenge perceptions about those with intellectual disabilities and differences, giving everybody a chance to get involved in one way or another.
Giuseppe Caira is a volunteer with Down syndrome and special needs organizations closely tied to local Special Olympics organizations, and below Mr. Caira provides insight for those interested in becoming an athlete, volunteering, or simply supporting.
Special Olympics: A Brief History
Joe Caira explains that the Games began as a yard summer camp for people with intellectual disabilities after Eunice Kennedy Shriver realized how unjustly people were treated in other events. Since then, it has continued to grow into the glorious global movement it is today.
The Special Olympics World Winter Games
The Special Olympics World Winter Games expects to host 2,917 delegates from 97 countries, 1090 honored guests, 2,250 volunteers, 700 media reps, and 2,000 family members at its event in January 2023. The event aims to demonstrate the power of sport to create inclusive communities by showcasing the athletic talent of people with intellectual disabilities.
Giuseppe Caira says it provides a space where athletes of all kinds and from all disciplines can demonstrate their aptitude to the world, inspire others, gain confidence, and receive awards. Ultimately, the Games doesn’t just want to change the lives of the participants, but the mindset of society as well.
What Are the Rules?
Unlike other sporting competitions, the Special Olympics Games do not include age or nationality divisions in the medal standings or the participants. Instead, everybody competes against everybody, aiming to better themselves. Although, participants must be at least 15 years old to get involved, according to Joe Caira.
Despite the absence of nationality and age divisions, the athletes are still divided into groups of eight (maximum) athletes, depending on their physical fitness.
As for the podium, there are eight places instead of the usual three spots.
Which Sports Are Hosted?
The selection of Olympic-style sports hosted at the Special Olympics Games is astounding according to Giuseppe Caira. Athletes can compete in all kinds of individual and team activities at the various Special Olympics Games hosted year-round, including:
- Alpine skiing
- Cross country skiing
- Figure skating
- Floor hockey
- Gymnastics (rhythmic and artistic)
- Short track speed skating
- Swimming (pool and open water)
- Tennis (standard and table)
At the 2022 World Winter Games, athletes can compete for medals in seven of the above sports. Specifically snowboarding, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, figure skating, floorball, snowshoeing, and short track speed skating.
Where Is the Special Olympics Games 2022 Hosted?
The event will be held in Kazan, a city in Russia. The seven events mentioned above, however, won’t be performed in the same place according to Giuseppe Caira. Instead, participants must head to one of five venues:
- Sports Palace — Figure skating and short track speed skating
- Skiing and Biathlon Complex — Cross country skiing
- Kazan Tennis Academy — Floorball
- Sviyaga Alpine Skiing Complex — Alpine skiing and snowboarding
- Burevestnik Stadium — Snowshoeing
Giuseppe Caira on How to Get Involved with Special Olympics 2022
There’s no denying the Special Olympics Games 2022 is a fulfilling and exciting event to participate in. However, not enough people talk about the endless opportunities provided by the Games. So, Giuseppe Caira explains you can get involved by:
- Becoming an athlete — Both children and adults with intellectual disabilities from all corners of the globe can become SO athletes and be the heart of the 2022 Games.
- Becoming a coach — Coaches make a difference. They shape not only the performance of the athlete but also their work ethic and character. The core values of the Special Olympics mean anybody can be a coach, not just sports professionals.
- Becoming a volunteer — The backbone of the Games, volunteers are everybody from fundraisers to managers. There’s an opportunity near you to become an SO volunteer no matter where you’re located
- Becoming an official — Officials ensure everybody stays safe and adheres to the rules of the competition on game day. If you’re looking for a more involved role in the Games, this is the part for you.
Changing Perceptions Since 1968
Whether you’re a Special Olympics Games newbie or were already excited for the World Winter Games, you’re now more informed than ever before. Giuseppe Caira says that January 2023 will see fun yet rigorous competition in Kazan for athletes with intellectual disabilities in the hopes that the world will become truly inclusive for everybody.