The Special Olympics event held on Copacabana beach on Friday, was the first to be organised under the agreement for 30 athletes with intellectual disabilities.
The participants were also treated to a match with Special Olympics’ ambassadors Vladimir Grbic, Olympic gold medalist from Serbia, as well as Brazil’s beach volleyball legend, Jackie Silva and former gymnast, Bart Conner.
Grbic was equally emotional when speaking about his involvement with the Special Olympics. “I was introduced to this project 11 years ago,” he said. “One thing I can say is that they play with their hearts. In any sports, you can see the passion in their eyes, and it’s all they need.”
“This movement has transformed people around the world. If you get to kids and a ball, it doesn’t matter the language or the intellectual capabilities. You fell the sense of friendship and support. Sports break down all the barriers,” said Conner.
19-year-old John Silva has benefitted first hand from the programme. “I came to the project three years ago, and I didn’t talk to anybody. I was an introverted person. But I changed a lot after I started playing in the Special Olympics. I became more sociable, and the relationship with my family is much better now,” he said.
The president of Special Olympics Brazil, George Millard was amazed with the demonstration in Copacabana. “It’s not about super athletes, but about common people. We don’t want to win medals, but to play and have fun”, he said. “Approximately one to three percent of the global population has an intellectual disability, and we know how sports can help people. It’s a matter of learning. The rules of sports teaches them to be independent."