Neus Munté, the Minister of Social Welfare and Family stated that the Special Olympic games are “an excellent way for persons with intellectual disabilities to develop personally and integrate into society”. This afternoon, Munté participated in the arrival of the flame for the 2014 Special Olympics, which will take place from October 30th until November 2nd in Barcelona and the nearby town of Calella. The Minister received the torch on Sant Jaume square and briefly toured the area before passing on the torch.
Along with attendance of the Minister, the event gathered several other political, cultural and sports representatives including the Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Maite Fandos; the Mayor of Calella, Montserrat Candina; the President of the Special Olympics in Catalonia, Jordi Durà and the President of the ACELL Federation, Francesc Martínez de Foix..
The Minister of Social Welfare and Family highlighted that the Special Olympics are “without doubt Catalonia's most important social and sports event for people with intellectual disabilities”. The Games are organized by Special Olympics Catalonia, the ACELL Federation (Catalan Sports Federation for Mentally Handicapped Persons), and the City Councils of Barcelona and Calella. For four days, approximately 1,600 athletes from Catalonia and the rest of the world will compete in 13 different disciplines: track, hockey, tennis, table tennis, gymnastics, handball, badminton, lawn bowling, indoor soccer, swimming, basketball and sailing.
Minister Munté noted that the sportsmanship aspect of the event also makes “the Games about fraternity, social activity, and leisure. Above all, the Games generate awareness about the role those with intellectual disabilities play in our society”. In this sense, the Minister praised the benefits of sport “as a motor for the integration and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities in our society” adding that “because of this, we need to celebrate, preserve, and encourage events like these, and recognize the commitment, strength and professionalism demonstrated by both the Catalan Sports Federation for Mentally Handicapped Persons (ACELL) and Special Olympics Catalonia. Through sport, these two associations together have done excellent work to improve the quality of life among people with intellectual disabilities”.
Minister Munté guaranteed that the Government would contribute toward this goal by “working to provide equal opportunities for everyone while supporting development in human, personal and professional environments that the individuals can freely choose. We want a society that includes and serves everyone. A society that supports integration, respects diversity, and shows solidarity”.
The Minister ended her speech by encouraging the athletes “not only to be brave throughout these four days of competition, but also throughout their entire lives”. She also encouraged the families to “feel proud of all their efforts and for society, as a whole, to view these athletes' talents and capabilities with pride and respect”.
The Games will start on Thursday at the Mar Bella Pavilion in Barcelona with the opening ceremony and the lighting of the torch. The Olympic flame was lit in Canigó, in the Pyrenees, and has toured cities with close ties to the Special Olympics including Figueres, Girona, Lleida, Reus, Tarragona and Barcelona.
Athletes participating in the Games will travel from all parts of Spain including Madrid, Valencia, Andalusia, Aragon, Castile and Leon, and Murcia; and will feature a strong international presence with representation from countries including Switzerland, Monaco, Italy, Gibraltar, Andorra, Denmark, Israel, Austria, the United Kingdom, India, Ethiopia, Morocco, Hungary, the Netherlands, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina and Peru.
Sailing, basketball, and tennis events will take place in Barcelona, while the rest will be carried out in Calella.