Special Olympics World Games

Special Olympics World Games in Berlin: 'FC Bayern is setting a good example'

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The Special Olympics for people with intellectual disabilities take place in Berlin from 17 to 25 June. FC Bayern is supporting the event. Under the slogan of “We are never offside”, over 7,000 athletes will compete for medals in 26 disciplines – and as a result, generate more visibility on the topic of inclusion. FC Bayern is supporting the event, for example by raising awareness at the German record champions’ big match against RB Leipzig at the Allianz Arena. In this interview, Sven Albrecht, CEO and board member of ‘Special Olympics Deutschland’, explains why the link-up with Bayern is important in this respect. Tickets for the event are available at https://www.berlin2023.org/en/visit-the-games/tickets.

The interview with Sven Albrecht

Mr Albrecht, what’s the idea behind the Special Olympics World Games?
Sven Albrecht: “The Special Olympics World Games are the largest inclusive sports event in the world and the largest multi-sport event to be held in Germany since the 1972 Olympics. The World Games are the sporting and emotional highlight of the Special Olympics movement for athletes with intellectual and multiple disabilities. This summer, 7,000 athletes from all over the world will travel to Berlin and as well as medals they’ll also be fighting for more visibility and tolerance. Before the athletes get started in 26 different sports, the delegations will be received in over 200 host towns across the country. We can look forward to many encounters and emotions and a great, colourful festival of inclusion.”


The topic of inclusion is also very central at FC Bayern. What impact can a club like FC Bayern have here?
“FC Bayern is internationally renowned, has a great pulling power and reaches lots of people. That potential can be used to create inclusive structures and promote inclusive sports offerings for all people. FC Bayern is an example to many other clubs and associations in this way. One of the other big goals of the Special Olympics is to break down prejudices in the world of work and prepare people with disabilities for the regular job market. FC Bayern is obviously an attractive employer, including for people with disabilities. In general it’s about thinking about changing infrastructures and taking the sometimes difficult path. From my experience, I can only say that every path for inclusion is worth it.”

What can sport in general achieve in terms of inclusion?
“With the power of sport, we can achieve great things and break down barriers in minds and on the pitch. It’s not always about the best performance, who runs quicker or jumps higher. In sport in particular it’s about bringing people together and having a good time. Sport can be a vehicle for opening up society to people with disabilities and their needs. Sport can also make a great contribution to the personal development of the athletes and generates in a special way the attention we need to break down barriers.”

Before the start of the Special Olympics, the teams from Canada and Mauritius will visit the Allianz Arena – are such meetings important to establish an exchange?
“Through these encounters, barriers and prejudices are again broken down. This exchange can be the starting point for further relationships and of course it promotes visibility. We have 190 delegations who will arrive in the host towns nationwide. So, during the World Games it won’t just be Berlin promoting an international exchange but the whole of Germany, and thus also a visit to the Allianz Arena. Last but not least, it’s a great experience for the athletes to be in the stadium of the Bayern stars.”

There's no other event that has such a special feeling of togetherness running through it.

Sven Albrecht on the Special Olympics World Games

At FC Bayern, fans with hearing disabilities are currently developing signs for the men’s and women’s players – is this a prime example of inclusion in action?
“Absolutely. There are so many barriers that are often unseen. For example, we need information in easy-to-understand language for people with intellectual disabilities, orientation systems with symbols – I could list many other points. Ultimately, it's about people with disabilities having the same desire to experience a stadium. The removal of barriers is not a ‘nice to have’, but a basic requirement for participation. I am therefore pleased that FC Bayern is setting a good example.”

What can the spectators expect when they attend the Special Olympics World Games?
“Alongside the many competitions that will be taking place across Berlin from 17 to 25 June, there’s a wide-ranging cultural programme with workshops, performances, panels and much more for the whole family. In addition there’ll be events at Brandenburg Gate. One highlight is certainly the opening ceremony at the Berlin Olympic Stadium on 17 June with lots of inclusive live performances, the rendition of our Games song ‘Are You Ready’ by Madcon and the entry of the 190 delegations. There are still tickets left. I can promise a one-off experience. There's no other event that has such a special feeling of togetherness running through it.”

What are your objectives with this event?
“In addition to successful competitions, where every athlete hopefully did their best, we are looking forward to a great festival of encounters and emotions. Overall, we would like to see the Special Olympics become more widely known and fight for more visibility for people with intellectual disabilities and, above all, for equal participation in society for all people. With the World Games in Germany, we have the chance to achieve this visibility for a moment, and then to get many little balls rolling beyond that. Ultimately, it is our common task to use this opportunity to make a lasting change: a society in which everyone feels welcome. We all benefit from this. We can learn a lot from our athletes along the way.”

The German record champions are also supporting the ‘Not all heroes wear jerseys. Sport says thank you’ campaign:

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