The Opening Ceremony, despite the clouds, was as always an uplifting and moving experience.
The Opening Ceremony – lighting the torch, raising the flag and singing our national anthem.
Unbridled joy and boundless enthusiasm; that’s what I experienced at the 5th Shumbashaba & Special Olympics S.A Unified Sports Day held on Saturday the 28th November 2015. Watching 162 athletes give of their best in the four different sporting codes offered is a wonderful sight to behold. What makes it all the more remarkable is that this community event involves athletes with and without disabilities who play side by side on the field of their chosen sport.
Brother and sister make for a winning team
Bocce, an entry level Special Olympics sport
On the day bocce (an entry level Special Olympics game similar to Bowls), equestrian, soccer and volleyball filled all four corners of the Shumbashaba property. The air throbbed with excitement, energy, the calls of triumph and cries of disappointment as the day wore on. In a Unified Sports event it is the power and joy of sport that takes center stage. It shifts one’s focus to what our athletes CAN DO, not what they can’t. Attention to disabilities fades away and instead, we see our athletes’ talents and abilities come to the fore. All of this was witnessed by a warm and vociferous crowd of spectators urging their team on to try harder and give of their best.
Even riding is a team sport
Equestrian athletes await their turn
The day began with that wonderful opening ceremony which involves all athletes in a parade marked by people holding hands, helping each other over the uneven ground and a warm sense of camaraderie as they file into the arena. Once in, the Special Olympics flag is raised, the national anthem sung and athlete’s oath read out; “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”. No truer words could be said; after all, no one can do more than give of their best.
Yay, a girls soccer team!
Soccer, one of our country’s favourite sports
At the end of the games a nutritious meal and drinks were handed out to every person present, scores were tallied and the eagerly-awaited Awards Ceremony was held. Special Olympics is an amazing organization reminding me that the true spirit of sport lies in participation. Winning is a by-product and not the sole purpose of sport. And so it is that every athlete gets to stand on the podium with a rosette in hand and medal around the neck; a highlight for the participants whose faces beam with happiness and a sense of achievement. And to add to the already high levels of excitement, Mark Fish, the former Bafana Bafana soccer player was present to hand out the soccer awards, shake hands with every player and pose for photos with each soccer team. The Closing Ceremony followed when the Special Olympics flame was doused. For me this ceremony highlights the spirit of UBUNTU – we are, because you are – which lies at the heart of all sport. The day ended with a yummy hotdog, drink and bag of goodies to take home. A good day was had by all!
A head-butting injury acquired in a soccer match being treated.
We are all champions!
Fortunately the day was overcast and not too hot, making for pleasant playing conditions. Certainly it was nothing like the week before when scorching temperatures were experienced. Looking at the splendid turnout of athletes, coaches, carers, family members, friends, supporters and volunteers, I couldn’t help but hear the words repeat themselves over and over again in my head; “never mind the weather, as long as we’re together …….”. My heart swells with pleasure – and maybe, just maybe a tear comes to my eyes – when I see the joy a day like this brings to so many people. We can create a better world when we foster the acceptance and inclusion of all people. Is this not too much to ask? And surely, with a little bit of effort this could be rolled out across all our lives? And wouldn’t the world be a better place because of it?
A nutritious lunch for our athletes
Mark Fish was a big hit.
Our athletes and their families remain at the center of this event, for without them there would be no Unified Sports Day. But fortunately there are many wonderful individuals and companies who help make a day like this happen. No entry fee is charged and so donations of time, skills, resources, food and drinks is essential. Thanks go to :
Our volunteers – too many caring and kind people to name
ACT Foundation for the nutritious lunch: https://www.facebook.com/ACTFoundationSA/timeline
City of Joburg: Community Development for the water, soft drinks, hot dogs and biscuits
Take5 for the ice lollies, Sip Snack Maize drinks, suckers, wine gums, chips, peanuts and juice: http://www.take5.co.za/
Paramedics for Hire who sent us wonderful Kyle who got stuck in and helped over and above his duties: http://www.paramedicsforhire.co.za/
SANESA for the donation of rosettes: www.sanesa.co.za
And last but not least, a big thank you to Special Olympics S.A.–Gauteng: http://www.specialolympicssouthafrica.org/
And my fellow organisers. You know who you are. I salute you all. Here’s to our next event in 2016.
Ubuntu, the sign behind these two, knows no boundaries.
At the end of the day the athletes patiently await a well-earned hot dog, drink and sweets
Photos and story by: Jacky du Plessis