29 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Special Olympics Programmes Set for Significant Revival

SPECIAL Olympics programmes are now set for a significant revival in Zimbabwe following the acceptance of Special Olympics Zimbabwe back into the international family this month. For the past four years, sports programmes for people with intellectual disabilities have been in the shadows after Zimbabwe's membership was temporarily suspended because the interim executive board that took over in 2008 failed to run sustainable events.

Founding SOZ national director, Bonny Woodman, then advocated for a new board led by Harare lawyer Deepak Mehta and is now recognised by Special Olympics International.

In correspondence to Mehta this month, SOI chief regional John Dow gave Zimbabwe until December 31, 2013, to regularise their operations with the world body.

"I am pleased to inform you that Special Olympic International hereby grants official recognition to the Special Olympics Zimbabwe committee, effective immediately and continue through December 31, 2013.

"With this recognition, Special Olympics Zimbabwe is granted the right to establish an accredited Special Olympic programmes in Zimbabwe," said Dow. SOI have seconded Charles Nyambe, the Special Olympics Africa Sports director, to help Zimbabwe revive their sports programmes for athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The new committee is now set to meet in the capital on Saturday to finalise their strategic plan and also try to recover the assets held by the previous executive.

Special Olympics was founded in Zimbabwe in 1987 but had almost folded since 2008 because the interim group has not been very active. Molly Matambanashe is the new national director while John Muringani is the sports director and duo is excepted to spearhead all-year round sports programmes for the athletes with mental challenges.

According to the latest official data, there are nearly 2 000 athletes with intellectual challenges and Zimbabwe, who missed out on the last World Special Olympics Games in Greece in 2011, have now set a target of sending a team to the next edition in Los Angeles in 2015.

Zimbabwe took part at the 2007 Games in Shanghai, China, and were represented by 19 athletes.

SOZ will also hold outreach programmes and have identified football, golf, bocce (bowls), athletics and swimming as the key sports for now.

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