PLAY THE GAME 2023: THE HISTORY OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS
From 12th to 14th May, 2023, Special Olympics get to the city of Biella, involving a Foundation Ambassador among others. As we wait for it, let’s rediscover the event’s history together.
Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921 – 2009) was an American philanthropist, and a member of a family that made history (her elder brother, John Fitzgerald, was the 35th President of the United States). After getting her Bachelor of Science degree in sociology, she soon started working for the Special War Problems Division of the U.S. State Department: however, inner interests for social matters – linked to her private life – were much stronger than her passion for justice.
Eunice was very close to her elder sister, Rosemary, who had mild mental retardation and right for this reason marginalized by the rest of her family. The two sisters grew up practicing several sports together – swimming, sailing, running, soccer…such occasions were playful and bittersweet at the same time, because Eunice soon realized how isolated and limited American persons with disabilities were.
The afternoons spent with Rosemary inspired a change. In 1962 Eunice organized a sport tournament in her home garden, especially for persons with intellectual disabilities. Named ‘Camp Shriver’, that Summer event revealed that sport was a good antidote for marginalized persons. The destiny of Camp Shriver was to evolve: in July 1968 it turned into the first Special Olympics in history, held in Chicago, Illinois. During her opening speech, Kennedy highlighted that ‘persons with intellectual disabilities can be exceptional athletes, able to improve their skills through sport’.
The vision of a single woman turned, through the years, into a global movement. Today Special Olympics involve almost five million persons with intellectual and cognitive impairments in 200 countries; in Italy, from March to October, Play the Games brings such initiative to 14 different regions, with a special program of events based on 19 disciplines able to involve almost 6,000 athletes. The Biella edition is scheduled between May 12th, Friday, and 14th, Sunday: today, Saturday 13, we’re looking forward to welcoming – among others – Francesco ‘Ciccio’ Graziani, who is expected to take part in the Special Football prizegiving at Campo 53° Fanteria. The Fondazione FILA Museum Ambassador has always been promoting sport as an inclusive practice and we are proud of his participation, to say the least!
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