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Sports Features of Monday, 13 July 2015

Source: Dela Ahiawor

Special Olympics: A Proud Story to Tell

World Games World Games

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”----------- Scott Hamilton

Another vista of a unique sporting moment beckons; but in Ghana interest in the upcoming ‘World Games’ for persons with intellectual disabilities continue to be smothered by a sporting media notorious for beating the drum for only mainstream sporting contests.

Fact is, games involving people with intellectual disabilities (special needs) gets the short shrift because it’s considered a fringe sport in Ghana. To that end, the lack of a palpable build-up towards this year’s Special Olympics in Ghana is par for the course.

With Ghana in the parade of nations in the upcoming games, the sporting media in Ghana thus have a fundamental responsibility. This is to fill the hearts and minds of Ghanaians, with the endowments of the seven thousand plus athletes with special needs during the games.

All hail from over 180 countries raring to show their paces come July, 25 when the games open in Los Angeles, USA.

A Monolith

The Special Olympics, is the world’s largest sports and humanitarian organization. In fact, it’s a global sporting monolith representing the vulnerable (people with learning difficulties) across all cultures and borders. It’s recognized as a global social movement that offers 33 Olympic-style sports and 81,000 plus games and competitions all year round to over 4.4 million athletes in 170 nations.

According to the chairman of Special Olympics, Dr. Timothy P. Shriver, the Special Olympics World Games, held every four years is their biggest event.

“For us, our largest events like our ‘World Games’, are a vehicle to the destination, the destination being your community, home, church, or family," he added.

Quest for Inclusion in Ghana

Without doubt, there is a strong inference from Dr. Shriver’s statement above that seeks to garner global support for the Special Olympics’ call for inclusion, acceptance and social justice. In order to arrive at the destination; the onus thus falls on the sporting media to ensure that the mission and ideals of the Special Olympics percolate through every community in Ghana.

In fact, this is the only way by which greater awareness can be achieved in the bid to root out stereotypes against persons with special needs in Ghana.

Recent survey shows that 2-3% of Ghanaians have below average intellectual functioning. Again, it’s also noted that such persons experience social rejection, which engenders discrimination and stigmatization.

They are also deprived of their fundamental human rights leading to loss of dignity. The corollary is that parents who sire such people become the butt of cruel ridicule. They suffer the ignominy of social rejection. And abiding sense of hopelessness and loneliness become a way of life.

In order to give ‘special needs’ children and their kith and kin a new lease of life, then the way to go as a nation this summer, is to savour every moment of the world games. This is because Los Angeles is going to be a cauldron of unparalleled celebration of diversity anywhere in the world.

The ensuing sports action and values, courage, joy and friendship is certain to bring hope that would transform the attitude and the lives of families and communities affected by learning difficulties around the world, including Ghana.

Truly, the Special Olympics Summer games is going to “shift the focus from disability to ability, from isolation to involvement,” said the organizers. The inherent talents in the over 7000 athletes , including the Ghana Special Olympics team will inspire the world to leap into the circle of inclusion.

Special Olympics Ghana

As a Nation it’s time to make this possible by motivating the Ghana team to fly high the flag of Ghana, once again- to lend credence to the aphorism that “disability is not inability.” They made us proud in Dublin, Ireland 2003. So, without any doubt, this year’s team made up of 28 athletes can even go one better.

A Proud Story

It therefore, goes without saying that ‘Special Olympics 2015’ presents a great human interest story to the sporting media in Ghana to tell. Rightly so, because the power of their words, voices and visuals can help combat public ignorance and prejudice towards people with special needs.

Accordingly, Dr. Shriver’s statement that “the greatest problem that the world faces today is not weapons of mass destruction but attitudes of mass destruction,” is rather apt. If you ask me, the media in Ghana can help change those attitudes, this summer and beyond.

So let’s all shake off our bad attitudes towards the vulnerable in society, because the only disability in life is a bad attitude.

See you in Los Angeles.