“That spirit that you bring with you to the Special Olympics is something we can all learn and draw inspiration from,” Rivlin told the athletes.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin hosted Israeli athletes of the Special Olympics at his official residence in Jerusalem on Thursday as part of the launch of the team that will participate in the 2019 Special Olympic Games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai in March.
The Special Olympics, which began in 1968, was the brainchild of then-US President John Kennedy’s sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver, aimed at empowering people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all.
The 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event of this year.
The event opened with a judo exhibition session between Israeli judoka and Olympic Bronze Medalist Arik Ze’evi and Levav Barkan, a Special Olympian.
Special Olympian swimmer Shai Dagan, only eight-years-old, presented the president with a Play Unified ball, which symbolizes the links between people with and without intellectual disabilities.
Addressing the gathering, Rivlin noted that one of the secrets of success in sports is how you use your strength.
“In sport, it isn’t enough to be strong if you want to win. As people who work every day on their disciplines, with determination and extraordinary mental strength you are experts in how to use your strength. You know when to let go and to conserve your strength and when to push yourself to your limit,” he told them. “That spirit that you bring with you to the Special Olympics is something we can all learn and draw inspiration from. Because of it, you are winners before the competition even starts.”
He also told to the Special athletes “you prove with your bodies that our minds have an incredible way of bringing our bodies to life, of surprising it, achieving things that at first sight appear impossible. You prove that human will is the most important force in nature.”
Regional Special Olympics official David Evangelista commented, “As Israel is celebrating 70 years of independence and Special Olympics is celebrating 50 years, the event today is an invitation from our athletes for everyone to join our world. It’s a world of competition without victims. They invite everyone to a world where you will see them as they are – strong.”