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The beautiful game as seen by a fan living it every day

A very Special Cup

This week the Special Olympics will hold a Unified World Cup in Chicago. Fifty years ago Eunice Kennedy Shriver started the Special Olympics in Chicago Illinois in 1968. What began as a movement to end discrimination against those with intellectual disabilities has grown into the “Inclusion Revolution,” and the creation of the first ever Unified Cup. The Special Olympics World Cup where Athletes with and without intellectual disabilities compete together at an elite level.

“For 50 years, Special Olympics has been building a movement to break down barriers – both on and off the field in health and education – all through the power of sport. As we celebrate our 50th Anniversary, we launch a 5-year campaign to inspire action and ultimately end discrimination for people with Intellectual Disabilities. The Revolution Is Inclusion.” The Unified Cup gave all the athletes to play together, from new friendships, and learn respect for each other. During the competition it was insured that the field of play was shared equally between the intellectually abled athletes and the intellectually disabled athletes. The small movement that started in Chicago 50 years ago now includes hundreds of athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The First ever Cup of its kind was held in Chicago. Sixteen Male teams and Eight Female teams competed. The 16 Male teams were from Uruguay, Bangladesh, France, Ecuador, China, Germany, Japan, Italy, Jamaica, Nigeria, Russia, United Arab Emirates, Canada and three teams from the USA, Illinois, Texas and Kansas Missouri. The eight Female teams are from Kenya, Brazil, Slovakia, Mexico, Bharat, Egypt, Korea and USA Illinois.

The Male Teams were then divided into four groups of four. During group play the teams played each other once. The teams with the highest points faced each other in the semi-finals. The winner of the Male division was Ecuador.

The eight Female teams were divided into two groups. The first group included Kenya, Brazil, Slovakia, USA Illinois. The second one was Bharat, Mexico, Egypt, Korea. The four semi-finalists Slovakia, Korea, Egypt and Brazil. Brazil and Slovakia were the two finalists. Slovakia won the Female division.

The Tournament was then followed by some very special events as part of the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary celebration. The Day of Inclusion, the 50th Anniversary Torch Run and the lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope.

The Day of Inclusion was held in the place where the movement started in 1968, Soldier Field in Chicago Illinois. The day included family friendly activities, on field demonstrations by professional and Special Olympics athletes. The was a Celebrity meet and greet with local celebrity athletes. A special concert was held at Northerly Island that included such artists as O.A.R., Smokey Robinson, Jason Mraz, Francis and the Lights, Usher and headliner Chance the Rapper. Celebrity Olympic Swimmer Michael Phelps took to the stage with an impassioned plea to end discrimination against those with intellectual disabilities.

The Law Enforcement Torch Run is an annual fundraiser for Special Olympics held by different branches of the police. To date it has raised 47 million dollars. A Commemorative event was held during the Tournament and culminated in the lighting of the Eternal Flame of Hope. The Eternal Flame of Hope is a sculpture erected for the 50th Anniversary. “The Eternal Flame of Hope” symbolizes the Special Olympics' theme of inclusion and unity, as well as hope, says world-renowned sculpture Richard Hunt, a Chicago native.” Evelyn Holmes. The sculpture includes a flame that can go up to 15 feet.