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Hosting Special Olympics Games are as much about the legacy they leave behind than the joy, pride and fun we all experience during these two weeks.

Almost one year ago my husband, The President of Poland, Mr Bronislaw Komorowski and I were honoured to host the 2010 Special Olympics European Summer Games in Warsaw.

First Lady of Poland Anna Komorowska

It was a wonderful experience I will never forget. Our country hosted 1,600 athletes and 600 coaches from 56 countries across Europe and Central Asia. The 2,500 volunteers who supported the Games have since received a President’s Award in recognition of their tireless and selfish efforts on behalf of the athletes.

I am personally committed to ensure that the legacy of these Games will continue: that we will never reverse the shift in attitudes towards people with intellectual disabilities and that we will continue to create communities of respect, acceptance and inclusion.

It was my great pleasure and honour to travel to Athens to support the Polish delegation, 83 athletes and 27 delegate members, in the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

The highlight of my trip was certainly cheering the athletes on in competitions including tennis, athletics, football, powerlifting, basketball and cycling and of course awarding a medal to Jacek Ciesluk in the 1,000 meters cycling.

I was so proud to lead the Polish Team in the Parade of Athletes during the Opening Ceremony alongside Mrs Katarzyna Frank-Niemczycka, President of SO Poland and Mrs Jolanta Kwasniewska, the former First Lady of Poland.

I am so inspired to see them so motivated to compete and win. My husband, President Komorowski and I are committed to continuing the good work that was achieved in Poland last year. Our hope is that one day Poland may be able to demonstrate this commitment even stronger by inviting the entire world-wide Special Olympics community to our beautiful country.

Mrs Anna Komorowska was so proud to lead the Polish Team in the Parade of Athletes during the Opening Ceremony alongside Mrs Katarzyna Frank-Niemczycka, President of SO Poland and Mrs Jolanta Kwasniewska, the former First Lady of Poland.

I would like to commend the Government of Greece and the Games Organising Committee led by Joanna Despotopoulou, for fulfilling their promise to Special Olympics and the athletes during this difficult time, and hosting everyone in such an efficient manner.

It was also my great pleasure during my time in Athens to honour the legacy of the founder of Special Olympics by attending the dedication of a park in Athens to Eunice Kennedy Shriver that will encourage an inclusive play and healthy living environment for future generations.

Having met with volunteers, athletes, coaches, and youth leaders from around the world, I am so moved by how the global movement is so dedicated to the dream of the late Mrs Shriver of a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities as everyone to reach their full potential in sport.

I am delighted to invite Team Poland to a ‘Welcome Home’ reception at our beautiful Presidential Palace in Warsaw. I am so looking forward to seeing my friends again, to congratulating them and recognizing their commitment to represent Poland so proudly during the 2011 World Summer Games.

Congratulations to all the athletes participating in Athens 2011!

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Soccer or Football as it’s more commonly known, is the world’s most popular sport and a leader globally. No other sport has its reach and impact.  Yet only one in five children with intellectual disabilities are given the chance to play football due to being seen by their peers as being “different “ or “without ability”.

Union des Associations Européennes de Football (UEFA) is a key partner with Special Olympics in helping us even the playing field. Our goal is to bring the experience of football to 500,000 athletes worldwide. Their focus is also on ensuring our athletes experience quality coaching and train with the best of professional equipment.

For Athens 2011, UEFA supported all of the 120 football teams participating in the Games, providing each with the necessary professional football equipment for training: UEFA/World Games branded balls, cones, shin protectors, bibs and a training DVD.

Tim Shriver, Chairman & CEO of Special Olympics is joined by UEFA representative & President of the Hellenic Football Federation Sofoklis Pilavios, and Takis Fisssas, Technical Director of the Greek National Football Team at the opening of the SOEE & UEFA funded Football Fun Park.

In partnership with Speical Olympics Europe/Eurasia, UEFA also hosted a Football Fun Park at the Hellinkon Stadium during the course of the Games to provide a five-day training program to each of our football athletes.

It is calculated that a total of 500 people have participated in the UEFA and SOEE funded Football Fun Park this week.

The UEFA Football Fun Park is run by two Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and two Coerver Coaching coaches along with many volunteers helping the athletes, coaches, and spectators.

The concept of the training program is based on 10 stations each focused on individual skills and drills. Each participant receives a certificate of participation with their total score of points gathered at each station as well as a special reward from the project partners. Each day statistics of the best 20 results were posted next to the venue, so participants can check their level in skill tests.
 
The best three scores in four categories  (male/female/partners/public including coaches/volunteers/spectators, will receive a special presentation during an official medals ceremony on Monday, July 3rd at 12.30 pm.

True to its name the launch of the UEFA Football Fan on Tuesday, June 28th was a fantastically entertaining and fun event attended by many global football leaders including UEFA representative & President of the Hellenic Football Federation Sofoklis Pilavios, and Takis Fisssas, Technical Director of the Greek National Football Team. Also present our Special Olympics Chairman and CEO Timothy Shriver. Makis Asimakopoulos / Head of Sports & Venues ATHENS 2011 welcomed all the guests to the occasion.

Billy Wingrove, Freestyle World Champion from Tottenham Hotspur Foundation performs at the launch of the SOEE & UEFA funded Football Fun Park

Freestyle World Champion Billy Wingrove from the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation thrilled all of the guests, volunteers and athletes with his outstanding ball skills, followed by another treat of a colourful balloon show.

“We are delighted of the success of the SOEE & UEFA funded Fun Park” says Sofoklis Pilavios, UEFA representative & President of the Hellenic Football Federation: “It’s wonderful to see everyone participating together and the coaches have been fantastic in ensuring that everyone is learning and developing”.

UEFA are also lead supporters of our annual European Football Week where everyone in the football community commits to do something to create more opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities in sport.

Now more than 33 national football federations across Europe integrated support of players with intellectual disabilities into their regular activity plans, leading the way for other sports organizations, like the European Swimming League and FIBA (the Home of International Basketball) to do the same.

 

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