Special Olympics regional hub to be set up in Singapore

Special Olympics global CEO Mary Davis (right) and Special Athlete Regional Representative Hanako Sawayama.
Special Olympics global CEO Mary Davis (right) and Special Athlete Regional Representative Hanako Sawayama.PHOTO: ALICIA CHAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

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

The Special Olympics is distinct from the Paralympics in that it caters to people with intellectual disabilities rather than physical disabilities. There are also year-round competitions at the local and regional levels in addition to the Special Olympics World Games, which are held every two years. Athletes also compete against those of a similar ability level, in order to ensure everyone gets to participate.

There are also plans for programmes in schools to promote integration of those with intellectual disabilities among students.

Special Olympics is the world's largest healthcare provider for people with intellectual disabilities, and Special Olympics International chief executive officer Mary Davis feels that some of this experience can be transferred into Singapore's healthcare sector 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.

Davis, 61, identified Singapore's infrastructure and culture as features that attracted the Special Olympics movement. She said: "There is a wide variety of sports facilities that can be used. There is also a good school structure which we can use to educate students about intellectual disabilities. Singapore also has a very inclusive culture, which we believe will aid in the inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities."

Davis, who was speaking on the sidelines of the Special Olympics Asia-Pacific Regional Leadership Conference, also stated her wish to host the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Singapore. "We would love if the Games could be held here. I think Singapore would do a fantastic job at hosting the Games."

She hopes that the establishment of the regional hub will help create a more inclusive society for people with intellectual disabilities.

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

Arjun Chandrasekhar, the marketing and development director for Special Olympics Asia Pacific, stated there are ongoing talks to host the 2019 Special Olympics World Games here, but nothing has been confirmed yet.