Special Olympics (SO) is an international organization dedicated to empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities to become physically fit, productive and respected members of society through sports training and competition. Special Olympics offer children and adults with intellectual disabilities year-round training and competition in 26 Olympic-type summer and winter sports. There is no charge to participate in Special Olympics.
Special Olympics was founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, sister of late US president J. F. Kennedy, and currently serves more than 1.7 million persons with intellectual disabilities in more than 200 Programs in more than 160 countries. In 2000, Special Olympics made a bold commitment to reach 2 million athletes by the end of 2005, placing a renewed focus on building the movement's infrastructure and establishing tools to facilitate growth. An initial census of athlete participation conducted in that year established a baseline count of athletes worldwide.
Special Olympics Ukraine (SOU) has been active since 1994. For 8 years SOU was a part of Ukrainian sports federation for people with mental disabilities, but in year 2002 SOU was given a status of Ukrainian non-commercial organization and for know has an accreditation of Special Olympics International.
For today about 10.000 Ukrainian athletes are involved in SOU programme under the care of 300 coaches most of which are working free of charge. The development of SOU is partially supported by SOI and SOEE for developing of SO special programmes (“Healthy Athletics,” “Families Support”, “Torch Run” etc.), but hardly and rarely by national governmental structures and corporate sector.
But despite all the difficulties there are a lot of achievements that SOU can be proud of: 10.000 athletes involved, 8 national and 35 international events, 5 national agendas for 65 coaches and 7 regional seminars for 130 coaches. Also agreements on the national level with: Ukrainian Basketball Federation (2003); Ukrainian Skiing federation (2004); Ukrainian volleyball federation (2004); Kyiv football federation, Lviv State University of Physical Culture and Sports (2003); Ukrainian centre of society’s physical health “Sport’s for everyone”; Centre of social services for youth (2004).
from Special Olympics Inc. (SOI) and Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia (SOEE): Mr. Michael Brogioli (Vice-President–Government Relations SOI), Michael Smith (Managing Director SOEE), Miroslaw Krogulec (Sports and Program coordinator SOEE). Together with SOU officials - SOU President Professor Serhiy Komisarenko and SOU National Director Kostyantyn Slynyavchuk, SOI and SOEE delegations had a series of meetings.
One of the most important among them was a meeting with Mrs. Katherine Yushchenko, First Lady of Ukraine, where SO missionaries were assured to get First Lady’s support for SOU National Games 2006, SOEE Youth Games in Rome 2006, and also her (First Lady’s) assistance to SOU in raising public awareness about intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics programs by utilizing leaders from sport, government, business, the arts and media.
The other important meeting was held with official representatives of National Olympic Committee (NOC) of Ukraine, where on behalf of NOC president S. N. Bubka (Ukrainian Olympic champion) NOC officials assured SO delegations that NOC will sign a national agreement with SOU, which states for cooperation and all-way possible assistance to Special Olympics programmes in Ukraine.
A kind of “special breakthrough” during SOI visit was involving Ukraine’s largest rock star Svyatoslav Vakarchuk, leader of Okean Elzy rock band, to SOU, SOI and SOEE common press-conference, where Mr. Svyatoslav kindly agreed to support SOU in all possible ways and claimed that he together with his band are eager to get others national celebrities into this “honourable and worthy cause” and into organizing a large Charity Gala Concert on SOU National Games 2006 in particular.
Also during Mr. Shriver visit to Ukraine, SOU was running a European Basketball Week (EBW) event, which has been organized by SOEE and actively supported by FIBA already for the last 2 years. This year SOEE European Basketball Week was held in more than 30 European and Asian simultaneously. SOI and SOEE delegates were happy to witness that in Ukraine had more than 800 SOU athletes involved in that event in 16 country’s main cities. In Ukraine EBW awarding ceremonies were held during the timeouts of the frequent games of Ukrainian National Super League and FIBA Cup, which took place on Ukraine’s finest basketball sports-grounds.
In Kyiv during the main break of FIBA Cup game between BC “Kyiv” (Kyiv, Ukraine) and BC “Lokomotiv” (Rostov, Russia), T. Shriver, Michael Smith and Serhiy Komisarenko together with BC “Kyiv” president Alexander Volkov awarded SOU athletes on Dvoretz Sporta (Sports Palace) arena.
SO officials and president of NOC of Ukraine and Olympic champion of Ukraine Alexander Volkov awarding SOU athletes on European Basketball Week at Dvoretz Sporta (Sports Palace).
Besides that, simultaneously with European Basketball Week event SOU was running Healthy Athletes “Fun Fitness” programme, which is in charge for examination of SO athletes’ locomotive organs and health condition. After that SOU athletes’ are given certified medical conclusions and their coaches (parents) are given proper advices for the further care for athletes’ health.