Special guests to visit PyeongChang
World leaders, including Myanmar’s democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi and sporting greats such as former NBA player Yao Ming of China and U.S. figure skater Michelle Kwan will visit Korea for the Special Olympics Global Development Summit on Wednesday.
They join Malawi President Joyce Banda, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikt Hasina at the meeting. The leaders will discuss issues and obstacles for people with intellectual disabilities to highlight the meaning of the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games that run from Jan. 29 to Feb. 5 in PyeongChang.
Some 300 international figures from various other fields will also be present.
“The Global Development Summit will contemplate the equality of people with intellectual disabilities in society and communicate the opportunities to improve the level of their lives,” said Na Kyung-won, chairwoman of the PyeongChang Special Olympics organizing committee. “I wish society would start to look at them just like they look at other people; looking once, not twice.”
“The misunderstanding, neglect and often outright discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities have been pervasive, with devastating effects on them and their families,” said Timothy P. Shriver, chairman and CEO of the Special Olympics. “It is time to bring people with intellectual disabilities out of the shadows and every sector of society must take part.”
Other notable sports stars are expected to attend the meeting including U.S Olympic gold medalists in gymnast Bart Conner, swimmer Donna DeVarona and speed skater Dan Jansen and former NBA player Congolese-American Dikembe Mutombo.
As part of its promotional activities, the Special Olympics organizing committee also has tried to encourage discussions among people by collecting stories about equality and inclusion on its website since November. The selected materials will be used for commercial purposes.
The Special Olympic is a biennial international sporting event. It is different from the Paralympics where athletes with both physical and intellectual disabilities compete at an elite level. The Special Olympics, which held its inaugural World Games in the United States in July 1968, awards medals to all participants. Instead of focusing on competition, the main purpose of the event is to induce the breakdown of public prejudice against people with intellectual disabilities by showcasing their capabilities.