With the 2014 European Games scheduled to start in Antwerp, Belgium in 25 days, Special Olympics Belgium published a video yesterday on YouTube asking people if they would still be a person’s fan if they looked the way they do, and if Special Olympics competitors deserve fewer fans. In the video, an athlete says she would love to compete in front of crowds of people.
Sports on the schedule for 2014 European Games games include swimming, artistic gymnastics, athletics, boccia, cycling, soccer, judo, table tennis, basketball and adaptive sports for those with profound intellectual disabilities. The organizers anticipate there were will be delegations from 58 European and Eurasian countries participating, representing 2,000 athletes and 1,000 coaches. Countries sending athletes include Belgium and Russia with the largest athlete delegations at 285 and 98 respectively, and Kosovo and San Marino who are each sending four athletes. The average athlete delegation size is 33, with Switzerland sending 35, Lithuania sending 33 and Iceland 31.
Unlike INAS and IPC sanctioned competitions, Special Olympics was created with the intention of being inclusive for all athletes. Everyone with an intellectual disability is encouraged to participate and have fun, and there is no classification system inside the Special Olympics. Some athletes do transition from the Special Olympics to INAS and the Paralympic level competitive sport. British Special Olympians Robert Ferrol and Owen Miller competed at the Inas Open European Athletics Championships in June of this year in the Netherlands.