Voices that Impact a Movement

October 22, 2011

One athlete called attending the Global Athlete Congress the adventure of his life. Others spoke of the responsibilities that come with being delegates to the first such meeting in five years, held June 6-9 in Marrakech, Morocco.  Now they can all look back on what was accomplished – which was a lot.

Special Olympics President & COO Brady Lum holds hands with Special Olympics athlete leaders on stage at the 2010 Global Congress.

The Global Athlete Congress offered a forum for 68 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities from all seven regions of the world to prioritize and examine several issues raised by athletes at regional and national meetings over the last five years.

The 2010 Global Athlete Congress (GAC) offered a forum for 68 Special Olympics athletes with intellectual disabilities from all seven regions of the world. The Congress is an extension of the Athlete Leadership Programs and delegates, who all serve on their Program Board of Directors, include past and present International Global Messengers.

The first day focused on athlete-only discussions. Among approved agenda items was a provision calling for the Special Olympics International Board of Directors to include the chair of the Global Athlete Congress as a board member. The board will also utilize GAC delegates in an International Athlete Input Council.

Next up was a vote to prioritize and examine several issues raised by athletes at regional and national meetings over the last five years. Issues involved training and general fitness goals, as well as the rights and responsibilities of adult athletes. Delegates also discussed a possible need for creating a Families Code of Conduct.

Better training for volunteers and officials got the biggest vote. There was a clear call from the athletes of the world for more rigorous rule enforcement and MUCH less pity on the field of play.

In addition, the GAC elected a new chairperson: Matthew Williams of British Columbia, Canada. For the next five years, he will be the face and voice of Athlete Leadership, Athlete Congresses and Input Councils around the world.

All athlete delegates also represented their country Programs in the Global Congress which was a gathering of leaders of all levels of the movement to chart the future of Special Olympics. Focused on a new five year strategic plan, the 2010 Special Olympics Global Congress was the first time in history that people from Special Olympics Headquarters to the local Program came together to align the goals of the movement.

After four days of motivating panel discussions and inspiring presentations, the Global Congress ended on a high note. COO Brady Lum and regional managing directors issued reports on the hands-on work accomplished on the Strategic Plan. And Chairman Tim Shriver recognized some of the movement’s “founders” – and recognized the work and dedication of Her Royal Highness Princess Lalla Amina of Morocco, who hosted the athletes and delegates in her home country. Under the patronage of King Mohammed VI of Morocco, it was her vision for the future of Special Olympics and her passionate support that made the Global Congress possible.

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