Berlin on Thursday became the official host of the 2023 Special Olympics World Games during a ceremony in the German capital. The official contract signing took place at Bellevue Palace in Berlin in the presence of German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Special Olympics athletes, and representatives from Special Olympics, including Christiane Krajewski, President of Special Olympics Germany, and Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics International.
Speaking at the official contract signing in Bellevue Palace, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier noted: “We are already looking forward to the Special Olympics World Games 2023 as a wonderfully colourful event. Anyone who has been to a Special Olympics competition knows what joy it brings both to the athletes and all of the supporters. A major event like the Special Olympics World Games gives Germany the opportunity to not only show what good hosts we are but also send a signal to the world on the importance of inclusion.”
The Games will provide a global platform to showcase the talent of people with intellectual disabilities. In recognition of this, athletes with intellectual disabilities have been engaged in all key decision making connected to the Games. In the course of preparing the bid for the 2023 World Games, 4,500 German athletes with intellectual disabilities were invited to various forum gatherings across Germany to input their vision to the bid’s design.
An athlete committee, made up of athlete leaders from the 14 sub-programmes of Special Olympics Germany, has also been created. In Berlin this week, 60 athletes took part in a two-day forum featuring discussion sessions related to World Games. Issues raised included exploring the barriers faced by people with intellectual disabilities to leading full and equal lives, challenges in employment opportunities, and unequal access to health care and education.
Mark Solomeyer, Special Olympics Germany national athlete representative, said he hoped that the Games would deliver significant change in German society. “We hope these Games will give people with intellectual disabilities more recognition. We want to live unified, both in sport and in society. Through the spirit of sport, we want to celebrate a festival of inclusion in Berlin in 2023.”  
These sentiments were echoed by Dr. Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, who – along with Special Olympics Sargent Shriver International Global Messenger, Nyasha Derera – also met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the Federal Chancellery during his visit: “The Special Olympics movement is driven by an urgent mission: to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities and create a fully inclusive world for all. The 2023 World Games in Berlin will be a global demonstration of inclusion, with Special Olympics athletes leading every facet of the event, from design to delivery. Governed by the transformative vision of Special Olympics athletes, these World Games will set a new standard for inclusive leadership and display the extraordinary outcomes that are possible when we choose to include."
In the months ahead, members of the Special Olympics Germany Athlete Committee will take on jobs in different areas of the Games, including sport and non-sport events, marketing and communications, hospitality and transportation to ensure a truly athlete-led and athlete-focused delivery model for the Games. The event organisers also aim to advance the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Germany, an international human rights treaty that seeks to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. The treaty was ratified by Germany in 2009 but many of the key features have yet to be fully realised across German society.
Christiane Krajewski, President of Special Olympics Germany said: “Today is an important and very good day for the Special Olympics World Games 2023. With the signing of the official event contract and the subsequent establishment of the World Games Committee, the operational phase of preparation begins. The great support that we are receiving from all sides makes us confident that we can master the great tasks that lie ahead. We wish to thank the German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the First Lady Elke Büdenbender, the Federal Government and the State of Berlin for their great support as well as the many clubs and associations across Germany that are supporting these Games.”
Taking place from 16-25 June 2023, the Special Olympics World Games in Berlin will be one of the largest sport and humanitarian events of its kind to take place that year. Following the Opening Ceremony in the renowned Berlin Olympic Stadium, an estimated 7,000 athletes from over 170 nations will compete in 24 sports across Berlin’s state-of-the-art competition venues. They will be supported by 3,000 coaches and an estimated 20,000 volunteers. The Games will also attract 6,000 family members, more than 2,000 national and international media, and 500,000 spectators.
The 2023 World Games is receiving substantial support from the State of Berlin and the Federal Government of Germany with combined funds totaling in excess of 70 million euros committed to help support the cost of the event. The original bid was a joint effort led by Special Olympics Germany, supported by the State of Berlin, the Germany Federal Ministry of the Interior, and the German Olympics Sports Confederation. A signature component of the Games will be a Host Town programme. This will see 7,000 athletes and their delegations spend time with host families in towns and cities across Germany in the run-up to the Games.
Directed by the vision of Special Olympics athletes, who will lead and shape every aspect of the event, the 2023 World Games will exemplify the leadership of people with intellectual disabilities and highlight their critical role in the global inclusion movement. This commitment to inclusive leadership will establish a legacy of inclusion in Germany and around the globe.
As part of the Games, ESPN, the Global Broadcast partner of Special Olympics, will bring stories of the competition to fans around the world on its network and digital platforms, as well as through additional distribution agreements in some markets.
 AIPS media