MOSCOW, August 29, 2012
When it comes to disability sport, it’s safe to say the eyes of the world are focussed on London this week.
But here at Laureus, we were very excited to be at the Potapovskiy Sport Complex in Moscow today to be launching our support for a new project working with disabled young sports lovers in Russia.
That project is the ‘Unified Sports Programme’, delivered in partnership with Special Olympics, which carries out a unique sporting idea by uniting people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same teams for training and competition.
Many of the young project members were at the announcement today, and bringing them all a touch of Olympic excitement was both Olympic gymnastics legend, Laureus Academy Member Alexey Nemov and Russia’s London 2012 gold medal-winning synchronised swimming team.
Alexey won 12 Olympic medals in his career and was immensely popular wherever and whenever he performed. The kids gave Alexey a heartwarming reception, and he was quick to get involved with the young people in a variety of sports, including basketball, floorball and football. There was also an informal question and answer session.
He said: “It was very emotional and a great honour for me to come and meet all these wonderful children, many of whom are fighting against considerable difficulties. I am so proud to be a member of the Laureus Academy and to be here to open this first Laureus-supported project in Russia. I hope it will be the first of many.
“I am delighted that Laureus is now championing the use of sport to combat discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities across Russia and I am happy to be here to show my personal support.”
But it was also a particularly special treat for everyone at the Complex as Alexey was joined by three members of the recently crowned synchronised swimming team - Daria Korobova, Anzhelika Timanina and Elvira Khasyanova.
Special Olympics is a global movement with programmes in over 220 countries which raises awareness about the abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, a group that is often marginalised, segregated and vulnerable within Russia. It aims to create a new world of inclusion and community, where every single person is accepted and welcomed, regardless of ability or disability.
The project has been shown to contribute significantly to breaking down barriers between people with and without intellectual disability, both on and off the playing field. It was inspired by the simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
With Laureus support, the Unified Sports Programme in Russia will continue to grow and develop, helping to educate the general public on the inclusion of the intellectually disabled, and building support for a more progressive policy environment within Russia.