SPECIAL Olympics South Africa, in a display of national unity and support, hosted an unforgettable send-off event for the 2023 National Team.
Taking place at the Deutsche Internationale Schule, this event demonstrated the collective pride and belief in our athletes, who will soon be vying for glory at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Berlin, Germany. There they will be competing against 7000 athletes from across 180 countries.
As the National Team was introduced, a wave of applause and a resounding show of enthusiasm filled the venue, marking the beginning of an afternoon dedicated to celebrating diversity, ability, inclusion and shared aspirations.
Mr Thomas Bachmeier, the Principal of the Deutsche Internationale Schule, provided the welcoming remarks, emphasizing the importance of this milestone event.
A series of heartfelt messages were presented by esteemed individuals, further amplifying the support for our special athletes. Notably, a message of encouragement was conveyed by Ms Jodi Scholtz, the Commissioner of the National Lotteries.
This was followed by a touching endorsement from Mr Imtiaz Sooliman, Founder of Gift of the Givers, whose philanthropic work is revered globally. His Excellency, the German Ambassador Mr Andreas Peschke, showed solidarity with a supportive message for the team, highlighting the transnational importance of the Special Olympics.
This unique event also brought together representatives from four significant Ministries, reflecting the national commitment to inclusive sports.
The Honourable Mathume Joseph Phaahla, Minister of Health, The Honourable Nkosasana Dlamini – Zuma, Minister of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities, The Honourable Lindiwe Zulu, Minister of Social Development, and The Honourable Ncediso Goodenough Kodwa, Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, took turns addressing the athletes, echoing sentiments of praise for their determination and resilience. Minister Kodwa also gave the keynote address, highlighting the power of sports in bridging divides and promoting unity.
Dr Mathews Phosa, the Chairperson of Special Olympics South Africa, concluded the event with a vote of thanks, expressing gratitude to all stakeholders involved in making the event a success.
In an extension of the send-off celebration, a symbolic gathering took place at OR Tambo International Airport. Here, the Ministers, along with the Chairperson and the CEO of Special Olympics South Africa, performed a ceremonial handover of the SA Flag to Team SA, demonstrating the nation’s trust and support in their athletes as they prepare to conquer the international stage.
The 2023 Special Olympics National Team hopes to replicate their success at the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates where they returned triumphant with 35 gold, 15 Silver and 12 Bronze medals.
As the 2023 National Team embarks on their journey to Germany, they bear the hopes and dreams of South Africa on their shoulders. The unyielding support and encouraging messages from key national leaders reflect the country’s collective anticipation and belief in their potential for success.