On January 15, the Gaidar Forum discussed the topic of extending inclusive sport and handling the issue of social isolation of people with developmental disabilities during the expert discussion initiated by Coca-Cola in Russia.
Today, both the government and business are being addressed the society’s call to improve the quality of life and provide equal opportunities for all population groups. Gaidar Forum expert discussion members unveiled how such a collaboration enables developing inclusion in the context of the upcoming Special Olympics World Winter Games in Kazan. The event featured the Minister of Sport of the Russian Federation Oleg Matytsin, President of the Republic of Tatarstan Rustam Minnikhanov, Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola HBC Russia Aleksandar Ruzevic, President of Special Olympics Russia Olga Slutsker. The session was moderated by the President of the Naked Heart Foundation Asya Zalogina.
This is the first time Russia plays host to the Special Olympics World Winter Games. The Russian Minister of Sport kicked off the expert discussion about the sports event remarkable for our country. “The issue of inclusion lies in the fact that people are often split up to the categories. The aim of the Special Olympics is to find the solution to this through educational programs and sport and include all people regardless of their physical, mental or sensor disabilities. It is debatable for whom it is more important: people with disabilities or without. Education, compassion, creation of such an environment allows signaling the society that we are all responsible for the development today; everybody should think about children’s future and build the work so that people with developmental disabilities do not feel isolated. Our common goal is to mitigate these discrepancies, integrate the best practices and achievements for the people with developmental disabilities not to feel an isolated sector of society”, he said.
In 2022, Kazan will bring together thousands of athletes and unified partners (athletes without intellectual disabilities) from all over the world. The Tatarstan President Rustam Minnikhanov told about developing sport and sports infrastructure in the capital of the republic. Over the past decade, it delivered the 27th Summer Universiade Kazan 2013, 16th FINA World Championships 2015, 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ matches, 45th WorldSkills Competition 2019 and many other large-scale international events. Rustam Minnikhanov voiced confidence that Kazan is ready to host the Special Olympics at the highest level and invited everybody interested to the Tatarstan capital in 2022.
“Delivering Special Olympics World Winter Games is a great honour and responsibility for Tatarstan. Preparations are in full swing, Republican Organizing Committee is founded. Test events are planned in Kazan this year. For the most part, we have clear understanding about all organizational issues. I am certain that staging Special Olympics World Winter Games will open a new chapter in the evolution of Special Olympic movement in Russia and globally”, said the Tatarstan President.
President of Special Olympics Russia Olga Slutsker reminded about the important mission of delivering the games in Russia: contributing to the adaptation of disabled people and fostering conscious inclusive society in Russia. The president focused that Russia is playing host to probably the most humanistic competitions in the world that allow people with intellectual disabilities to socialize and feel a part of a big sports family. First of all, sport is meant to create the atmosphere of joy and kindness eliminating the barriers and conditions. This is the reason Special Olympics stays out of politics, it is about unification and feast of a human victory over the circumstances. For the last two years, Special Olympics Russia has been actively implementing the projects designed to grow inclusive society and social involvement in our country. Olga Slutsker shared the inclusive sport development program in schools supported by the Stavros Niarchos foundation and pointed out the need to form careful and attentive attitude towards the special people from the very childhood: “This is equity and unity that are genuine sports values. Special Olympics athlete oath sounds “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”
Chief Executive Officer of the Coca-Cola HBC Russia Aleksandar Ruzevic concluded the session. Coca-Cola has long been working on the inclusive society issue: in 1968, the company became a Special Olympics founding partner, and 2015 marks off the beginning of cooperation with Special Olympics Russia, with which the unified leadership program was launched. The company will also become the partner of the upcoming games. The speaker put an emphasis that the company has had longstanding partnership relationships with the Republic of Tatarstan. It is illustrated with the example of successful collaboration during the main international events delivered in Kazan over the past decade among which the programs for the athletes with moving, physical, and intellectual disabilities were carried out. By investing in the generation of new opportunities with account for different people’s needs and characteristics, the company leaves its mark in handling an important social problem and helps with building a society of equal opportunities in Russia. Under these conditions, the athletes may showcase all their skills and therefore feel fulfilled and happy. This is what the government and business sets forth as the main goal of their relationships.
Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. Organization fosters acceptance of all people through sports development and programs designing in the field of education, health, and leadership. With more than six million athletes and Unified Partners, more than one million coaches and volunteers in over 190 countries and territories, Special Olympics annually delivers over 100,000 games and competitions in more than 30 Olympic-type sports.
Special Olympics Russia was established in 1999 and is one of the largest national programs within the world community accounting for 130,000 athletes competing throughout the country. More than 5,000 Special Olympics sports events at the municipal, regional and national levels are held annually. Currently, there are regional offices in 62 regions of Russia. Among the key objectives of the World Winter Games is to enlarge the number of the participants with intellectual disabilities up to 200,000 people by 2025.
The Special Olympics Russia Winter Invitational Games will take place on 3-8 February 2021 in Kazan and encompass six winter sports (snowshoeing, alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, figure skating, and short track speed skating). It is expected that the tournament will bring together about 700 athletes.
In 2020, the Unified Leadership (inclusive leadership) program was launched in collaboration with Coca-Cola in Russia and is dedicated to the development of inclusive sport. Thanks to the program people with disabilities enhance the skills of social involvement and event organization. Over the last year, 47 competitions were delivered in 20 Russian regions featuring 2,890 athletes.
Coca-Cola has been working on the inclusive society formation since 1968 when the company entered into partnership with the Special Olympics for the athletes with intellectual disabilities. 2015 marks off the beginning of cooperation with Special Olympics Russia. In 2016, Coca-Cola in Russia and Naked Heart Foundation launched the common project within which in 11 Russian cities they install inclusive playing parks accessible for everybody interested, free of cost, regardless of their physical, mental and sensor disabilities. During the Summer Universiade Kazan 2013 Coca-Cola implemented a sports program for people with developmental disabilities, while at the FIFA World Cup Russia™ the company hosted 12 unified matches across the country, the largest of which was held in the Red Square. Coca-Cola afforded an opportunity for the teenagers with special needs to join the global event. Adolescent athletes with developmental disabilities acted as the flag bearers at several matches. The same practice of unified matches, but with hockey was applied at the Winter Universiade Krasnoyarsk 2019 as well. Initiatives connected with the inclusive society development are the biggest block of expenses from all social investments of Coca-Cola in Russia in 2018.