Special Olympics hub here a boost for inclusiveness

Mary Davis, global CEO, says the Special Olympics want to build a strong, vibrant sporting programme.
Mary Davis, global CEO, says the Special Olympics want to build a strong, vibrant sporting programme.

People with intellectual disabilities are set to benefit from the setting up of the Special Olympics regional hub here in Singapore.

Special Olympics is moving its regional hub from India to the Republic this year and its global CEO Mary Davis says the move could see strides in healthcare for those with intellectual disabilities - specifically through the training and education of medical personnel.

"We are really looking at bringing intellectual capital and expertise to Singapore through this hub," said Davis, 61, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Regional Leadership Conference yesterday.

"This is in addition to initiatives like our child development programmes for children between two and eight years of age, where they learn gross motor skills and we help them start participating in sports."

Davis said Singapore's infrastructure and culture prompted the move. "There is a wide variety of sports facilities that can be used. Singapore also has a very inclusive culture, which we believe will aid in the integration of people with intellectual disabilities."

The regional hub will provide resources that individual countries can use to formulate their own respective national plans. She also hopes that the establishment of the regional hub will help create a more inclusive society for people with intellectual disabilities in the region.

"We want to build a strong, vibrant sporting programme to ensure that people with intellectual disabilities are fully included and respected in society."

Special Olympics differs from the Paralympics in that it caters to people with intellectual rather than physical disabilities. Like the Paralympics, which take place every four years, the Special Olympics World Games are a quadrennial affair. However, the Games are just one part of ongoing efforts to change society's attitudes.

Arjun Chandrasekhar, marketing and development director for Special Olympics Asia Pacific, said they are currently in discussions with various sporting authorities about having the 2019 Games here. "However, the talks are only in the early stages and nothing has been confirmed yet," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 18, 2016, with the headline 'Special Olympics hub here a boost for inclusiveness'. Print Edition | Subscribe