Special Olympics is not just about a big event like Berlin, important though that is, it’s also about the work done at grassroots level. Back in 2003, along with eight of my fellow Laureus Academy Members – Sebastian Coe, Yaping Deng, Kapil Dev, Michael Johnson, Franz Klammer, Edwin Moses, Robby Naish and Daley Thompson – we went to the Lu Jia Zui School in Shanghai to see for ourselves.
We were overwhelmed by the welcome we received. The cymbals crashed, the balloons and kites flapped in the wind and more than 100 children with intellectual disabilities, and their families and friends, shouted out their greetings Chinese style.
The school was taking a leading role in the Unified Sports Programme in China, where individuals, with and without mental disabilities, join together in the same teams for training and friendly competition. It has proved to be one of the most powerful tools for changing attitudes, breaking down barriers and promoting integration.
Landmarks are constantly being reached and passed, as Chris has shown us, and it is that kind of never-give-up moment that may inspire the young people coming out of that school in Shanghai, and many others around the world, to make their own individual step forward.
Special Olympics encompasses almost six million athletes with intellectual disabilities in 220 countries, using sport to create an inclusive world for people of all abilities.