Members of Israel’s delegation to the Special Olympics World Games pose for a photo with Minister of Welfare and Social Services Haim Katz (center in blue) prior to their departure for Los Angeles.
(photo credit: AVI HAYUN)
The Special Olympics World Games got underway with a colorful Opening Ceremony in Los Angeles on Saturday night, but several of Israel’s representatives already began their participation hours earlier.
The basketball, swimming, athletics, soccer, bocce and tennis competitions all got underway on Saturday morning, the start of a jam-packed schedule which will continue until the Closing Ceremony on August 2.
Every two years, Special Olympics athletes come together to compete at the World Games, with over 6,500 athletes from 165 countries descending upon Los Angeles this year. Athletes will be competing in 25 different sports at venues throughout Los Angeles.
Israel claimed 66 medals at the previous World Games in 2013 and this year’s delegation, numbering 40 sportsmen and sportswomen, is aiming to match that tally in Los Angeles. The blueand- white delegation will send representatives to nine events: cycling, athletics, bocce, bowling, tennis, basketball, kayaking, swimming and open-water swimming.
Special Olympics is a global movement aimed at empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance.
Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 4.5 million athletes in 170 countries.
With the support of more than 1.3 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and more than 94,000 games and competitions throughout the year.
The Ministry of Welfare and Social Services provided much of the funding for the Israeli delegation’s trip to Los Angeles, but the athletes also helped raise money.
Cyclists Maya Hertz and Tal Rozenfeld, and Adi Madmon, who will complete in athletics, raised NIS 300,000 with the help of the Kfar Saba Municipality, with the Ra’anana and Herzliya Municipalities also holding special fundraising events over recent months.
An advertising campaign aimed at raising awareness and donations for Special Olympics in Israel was launched several weeks ago. In the ads, World Games medalists are pictured wearing their medals with a caption reading: “People are pointing at me... and it is amazing!”