Special Olympics Berlin: Some 330,000 people attend


BERLIN: Germany hopes the success of the 2023 Special Olympics leaves a lasting impact and boosts the country’s chances of potentially hosting the 2036 Olympics and Paralympics.

As the Special Olympics in Berlin ended, organizers hope that a new era of inclusion is set to start.

Some 330,000 people attended across eight days to watch any one of the 26 sports on show. Around 6,500 athletes competed, and almost 20,000 volunteers worked to make the event run smoothly. Online the event is reported to have reached more than one billion users globally, and sporting stars such as Dirk Nowitzki and Lewis Hamilton have lent their voice in support of the Games.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was also present and spoke of “a peaceful, Olympic atmosphere.”

“A really great event,” Scholz continued. “It’s quite inspiring to see athletes take part here and how very committed and all in they are.”

“The most important message is that we have given the athletes a stage that did not exist before in Special Olympics,” said Sven Albrecht, head of the organization of the Games in Berlin.

German Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, who’s also responsible for sports said that the country presented itself as “an enthusiastic sports nation and a cosmopolitan society. We are a great host for such major international sporting events.”

There was some criticism, though, of how accessible certain events were for disabled spectators.

Closing ceremony

At the closing ceremony on Sunday at the Brandenburg Gate, the flag was taken down and handed over to Turin, the next hosts of the Special Winter Games in 2025.

“The opening ceremony brought me to tears and nothing changed during the week,” said the president of the Special Olympics in Germany, Christiane Krajewsky.

The hope is that the impact of these Games can leave a lasting legacy around inclusion as well as involvement. Currently, around 8% of people with intellectual disabilities are involved in sports. Krajewsky is aiming to get that number to 16% but it will take a collective effort of sports clubs, government and sporting associations to make sure this event makes a long-lasting and sustainable impact.

There is also some hope that Berlin’s largely successful hosting of the Special Olympics might boost Germany’s chances of submitting a bid for the 2036 Olympics and Paralympics, 100 years after the 1936 Nazi Olympics in Berlin.

“This major event shows that an Olympic Games in Berlin is possible,” said Berlin’s State Secretary Nicola Böcker-Giannini. —DW

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