One torrid afternoon, on July 20th 1968, Eunice Kennedy Shriver took the floor for the inauguration of the first Special Olympics Games competitions. It had only been 7 weeks since the passing of her younger brother, Robert.
Before her stood no fewer than 100 spectators spread across the grand Soldier Field stadium, with an 85.000 seats capacity. 1.000 athletes from the US and Canada were also present, all improperly classified during those times as “mentally retarded”.
Their march was accompanied by Eunice Kennedy Shriver’s words:
“Let me win
But if I cannot win
Let me be brave
In the attempt”.
Ever since, from 100 athletes with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics movement has reached in the present over 4 million athletes, spanning 170 countries. They run, play volleyball, basketball, football, they swim, lift weights, skate, practice judo, table tennis, gymnastics or badminton.
The International Eunice Kennedy Shriver Day was celebrated in Romania as well, through the Special Olympics Romania Foundation. In the past five years, the organization has been supported financially by the Vodafone Romania Foundation for organising events, as well as through volunteers from amongst the Vodafone company employees.
The event was celebrated in Bucharest at the National Physical Education and Sport University by means of unified sports: volleyball, basketball, aerobics and zumba. The 94 Special Olympics athletes, Vodafone volunteers, coaches and parents had the opportunity to enjoy a day of exercise, energy and enthusiasm.
Besides playing sports, the participants were required to get health evaluations, as part of the Healthy Communities initiative: having their blood pressure and bone density measured. At the same time, a checkpoint promoting healthy diet and proper hydration was set up.
For the first time in our country, demonstrative unified volleyball matches were played within the “Unified Sports Volleyball” project, endorsed by Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia through a European Union program.