Written by Callum, Special Olympics Ontario athlete Visit Callum’s blog here
172 countries. 4.9 million athletes. 50 years of acceptance, inclusion and the stimulation of growth. The whole world celebrated half a century of incredible progress, marking Special Olympics 50th anniversary with a global Day of Inclusion. The day was held exactly 50 years and one day after the first Special Olympic Games, July 20th, 1968. The heart of all this celebration was none other than Soldier Field: the venue where those very games were first held, in Special Olympics’ home city of Chicago. I got to be in the city during all of this wonder, arriving to play in the first ever Unified World Cup [thanks Team Canada!]
50 years later, the Day of Inclusion and Unified World Cup would mark the return of Special Olympic athletes to Soldier Field
Because it was near the end of an adventurous and jam-packed week involving the Unified World Cup, I saw the Day of Inclusion through the lens of global competition. It really put things into perspective: how included the world was in modern-day Special Olympics. During the first International Games at Soldier Field, there were athletes from only 2 countries: The U.S. and Canada. On this year’s Day of Inclusion, Unified Cup athletes—male and female—arrived at Soldier Field from a total of 20 nations, hailing from Asia, Europe, Africa and the Americas. That is how much Special Olympics has grown, even in a shorter span than that of a human life.
I could go on about how much fun the Day of Inclusion itself was—the games, the prizes, the joy on everybody’s faces—but I won’t. It’s not about the things that happened during the day, it’s about what they represented. I, personally, have gone through tremendous growth thanks—in large part—to Special Olympics. The same could be said for many of my fellow athletes and friends from Ontario. But this day was bigger than just Ontario.
A few of the athletes who were at the original International Games.
They have seen how far Special Olympics has come since then
What the Day of Inclusion represents is this: Special Olympics isn’t just for the United States and Canada anymore. It’s breaking cultural barriers across nations, even in places that haven’t developed the same cultural acceptance of disability like you’d see in my hometown of Toronto. From what I saw at the Unified Cup Games, Soldier Field, and Chance the Rapper’s concert, it’s about Including the whole world in a cultural movement. That movement is called the Inclusion Revolution, and it’s here to stay.