The Special Olympics World Games is the biggest sporting event which brings together, talented people with intellectual disabilities across the globe. This year’s competition which will hold in Los Angeles, United States of America, starting Saturday, July 25, 2015 will feature competitions in several summer sports, with a 42 man contingent of Special Olympics Nigeria (SON) flying Nigeria’s flag.

The sporting event has continued to encourage the creation of an inclusive community, build confidence and teach leadership skills through athletic training and competition. It has also been very impactful in changing the perception of people with intellectual disabilities, showing that they can, with encouragement and support; learn, benefit and enjoy participation in team and individual sports that meet their intellectual and physical disabilities. At the forefront of this vision is the world’s beverage giant, The Coca-Cola Company. 

Coca-Cola’s enthusiastic support of the world-class sporting event dates back to the inception of the Special Olympics movement in 1968. As a founding partner, the company has remained an active global supporter of the Special Olympics movement across its markets, raising awareness of the potentials of people with intellectual disability through sports. The support from Coca-Cola continues to grow in scope, as it supports the vision to give people with intellectual disability the opportunity to develop their skills, demonstrate courage and experience the shared joy of participating in sports. 

Coca-Cola and Special Olympics, earlier this year, came together to produce, “Reach Up”, a global anthem for the World Games, bringing together music artistes, Marc Roberge of O.A.R and Cody Simpson, and two very talented singers with intellectual disabilities—Special Olympian Bree Bogucki and viral sensation, Madison Tevlin to drum up global fans around Special Olympics’ athletes and the World Summer Games. 

In preparation for this year’s sporting event, Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited earlier in the month, made a Pre-Games camp visit to cheer and inspire Special Olympics Nigeria (SON) Team Nigeria, ahead of their departure for Los Angeles on July 20, at the training camp. The visit was along with Ex-Super Eagles Striker/Former Assistant Coach, Daniel Amokachi; Ex-Super Eagles Midfielder, Ifeanyi Udeze as well as Ex-Super Eagles Goalkeepers, Peter Rufai and Emmanuel Babayaro; who also conducted training sessions for the players on international football playing skills and also intensive drilling in the rain.  

Speaking at the camp, Amokachi expressed satisfaction with the team spirit shown by the athletes, expressing that, “The commitment to support and appreciation of team members is delightful and indeed inspiring. The players are committed and show so much enthusiasm.” 

Without doubt, the support from Coca-Cola goes beyond the monetary, as the company offers in a similar way, resources and volunteer support that facilitate Special Olympics competition around the world.

Emmanuel Ekomabasi and George Osadalor will be representing Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited at the Unified Soccer games -an initiative that brings together athletes with and without intellectual disabilities to train and play as a team- that opens up relationships and validates the fact that Special Olympics, like every other sporting event, is really about friendship, joy and play. Both athletes have stated that training with the SON athletes have been quite inspiring for them. 

Speaking on behalf of himself and his colleague, Osadolor said, “There is nothing to compare with the friendship, the broken barriers we have enjoyed these past weeks. There are no words to explain the moments of supporting each other. It is a brilliant experience and we are happy to have an opportunity to partake in this tournament. It is something we will always remember.”

While expressing his excitement, one of the SON athletes, Olufemi Solomon, who is hearing impaired said, “I feel confident, and sure, it is a good feeling to have. And I thank everyone who made this possible.”  Another SON athlete, Lucky Osadolor showered appreciation on Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited and other sponsors who have worked to make their participation possible and then added, “It has been so much fun; loving I feel fit and I am ready for the games.”    

Employees of Coca-Cola Nigeria Limited were also volunteer participants at the send forth party organized in honor of the SON athletes, their parents, and other sponsors in Terra Kulture, before their departure, to what is arguable reckoned as the largest sports and humanitarian in the world in 2015.

A statement culled from the Special Olympics website states that, America’s First Lady, Michelle Obama will be attending the Opening Ceremony of the 2015 Special Olympics World Games. The website also says, that the: “Special Olympics World Games – and all of the 80,000 Special Olympics competitions that occur every year—invite the public to see the talents and capabilities of people with intellectual disabilities. It is a way to open eyes, to change attitudes and to break down barriers that excluded people with Intellectual Disability (ID) from the mainstream of community.”

The most recent Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Athens, Greece in 2011, with about 7, 000 athletes from 170 countries participating. This year, when the event opens on July 25, 2015 in the city of Los Angeles, USA, it is expected that over 30, 000 volunteers and 500, 000 spectators will be supporting the athletes who will compete in 25 Olympic-types sporting event over nine days. Special Olympics Nigeria (SON) will be participating in Table Tennis, Athletics, Badminton, Aquatics, Basketball, Cycling, and Unified Soccer.