Special Olympics athletes took center court during the final round of EuroBasket on September 19th.
A unified game between Special Olympics athletes and Polish basketball players including, Andrzej Pluta, the best three-point shooter on the Polish national team and Maciej Zielinski, legend of Slask Wroclaw, took place during the half time interval.
The demonstration was part of FIBA Europe's continued efforts to promote more opportunities in the game for athletes with intellectual disabilities while at the same time changing attitudes and promoting respect, acceptance and inclusion.
Since FIBA Europe established a partnership with Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia (SOEE) in May 2004, the number of Special Olympics basketball players in the region has increased from 13,000 to almost 45,000 players. One of the highlights of the partnership has been the involvement of national basketball federations and professional clubs.
"Most importantly we have an opportunity to demonstrate to thousands of spectators the power basketball has for teaching skills that transcend the court, boosting confidence and providing joy to the special athletes as well as transforming our own perceptions so that we see these individuals not for their disabilities but for their abilities. We look forward to continuing and developing this initiative for years to come" said Nar Zanolin, Secretary General, FIBA Europe.
There are approximately 26.5 million people with an intellectual disability in the Europe/Eurasia region. Special Olympics, founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, is the world's largest year-round program of sports training and competitions for individuals with intellectual disabilities. More than 3,1 million athletes in more than 170 countries train and compete in 31 Olympic-style summer and winter sports at local, national and international events. Through its sports programs, Special Olympics strives to provide long-term benefits to individuals' health, self-esteem and social integration.