Let the Special Winter Games begin

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Let the Special Winter Games begin

An international sporting event for athletes with intellectual disabilities begins today in the Korean alpine town of Pyeongchang, Gangwon, with more than 3,100 athletes from 111 countries taking part.

The Special Olympics World Winter Games will continue until Feb. 5 in the resort to about 180 kilometers (112 miles) east of Seoul. Athletes will compete in seven sports, including alpine skiing, snowboarding, speed skating and figure skating, plus one demonstration sport, floorball. The host country will have 169 athletes and 67 officials taking part.

The Special Olympics World Games have been held every two years since 1968, and they alternate between summer and winter editions. The winter version was introduced in 1977. Pyeongchang is the first Korean host of Special Olympics World Games.

Under the motto “Together We Can,” organizers said they hope to raise awareness of those with intellectual disabilities and help improve their lives.

Anyone over the age of 8 with intellectual disabilities can participate in the Special Olympics. The Special Games don’t keep track of medal tallies for participating countries. The top three finishers in each event are awarded medals, but all finalists also receive ribbons.

The athletes’ oath in these competitions is: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Pyeongchang also will stage a series of nonsports events on the sidelines of the World Winter Games. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s opposition leader, will be a keynote speaker at the Global Development Summit tomorrow.

Under the theme “Ending the Cycle of Poverty and Exclusion for People with Intellectual Disabilities,” the meeting is aimed at “raising awareness about the dimensions of deprivation that people with intellectual disabilities experience in low-income communities across the globe,” organizers have said.

In the program titled Unified Sports Experience, star athletes without intellectual disabilities will try their hands at World Winter Games events along with Special Olympics athletes. Among Korean athletes expected to participate are Lee Bong-joo, an Olympic marathon silver medalist, and Kim Dong-sung, an Olympic short track champion. From overseas, Michelle Kwan, a five-time world figure skating champion, and Yao Ming, an eight-time NBA All-Star, will team up with athletes with intellectual disabilities.

Throughout the World Winter Games, Special Olympics Festival will also include music concerts and other art performances, including those by artists with intellectual disabilities.

The Special Olympics movement was founded by the late Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a younger sister of the former U.S. President John F. Kennedy. Timothy Shriver, son of Eunice, is currently the chairman of Special Olympics International, the governing body of the Special Games. Yonhap
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