The Belgian Special Olympics National Games will be held in Diglistad (Mechelen) in 2023

Founded in 1979, Special Olympics Belgium is an organization for athletes with intellectual disabilities. As an international movement, it offers Olympic sports year-round for people with intellectual disabilities. The movement wants to break the taboos that still exist around people with intellectual disabilities, in order to create respect and appreciation for them.

Michlar Martin Boyles, who will be the promotional face of the Games, has a torch of hope. © Dirk Vertumen

The National Games are the highlight of this year’s sporting event for more than 3,400 athletes with intellectual disabilities. Next year it will be held in Louvain-la-Neuve, and the following year it will host Mechelen.

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In anticipation of the arrival of the athletes with the torch of hope, several speakers took their turn at the cultural center. “The arrival of the Games is the next step towards a more inclusive society,” Mayor Alexander Vandermessen said Friday afternoon when the Games were officially announced. “The goal is to become one of the most inclusive cities in our country. Living together in diversity has made Mechelen not only a strength, but also one of the banners of our city. Bringing the Games here is a logical step in Mechelen’s policy of opportunity. Not only on a sporting level, But everywhere in our society people with intellectual disabilities must be given an active role.”

He allowed Martin Boyles to light the torch of hope.

He allowed Martin Boyles to light the torch of hope. © Dirk Vertumen

At about 4 p.m., the Athletes with the Flame of Hope entered the Arena of Culture, with Martin Boyles of Michlar at the front, who would be the face of promoting the Games. Poels became the World Judo Champion among SOD players in 2017. Ambassadors Mechelen Gunther Neves, Pete den Boer and Patrick Rigwell also made several torch relays with the united team, after which he lit the torch of hope. Then, they also participated in a football moment in which people with intellectual disabilities and non-disabled people play sports together in one team.

“It is a special honor for our city to receive all these athletes,” says Pete Den Boer. “We have many plans and we will live there for a year and a half. Mechelen is an inclusive city. We still have the financial backing to get all of this done, but we will definitely succeed.”

Martin Boyles will participate in judo tournaments.

Martin Boyles will participate in judo tournaments. © Dirk Vertumen

The campaign against Martin Boyles will participate in judo tournaments. “But to realize our dream here in our city, we still need hundreds of volunteers. It will not work without them,” Martin added.

Support from well-known Michaels

“These toys are Michelin’s DNA,” said singer-ambassador Gunter Nevs. “It is to the satisfaction of many guests that we will be holding the games in our city.”

Mechelen has also received a lot of support for customizing games through a movie. Such was the case of VRT news anchor Fatma Taspinar, comedian Bart Kanerts and sports journalist Mark Uetterhofen. Bart Summers once promised that he would bring the Olympics to Mechelen. I laughed at it. And now the most important games, those for people with disabilities, come to Diggle City.”

The Mechelen Special Olympics will take place from 17-20 May 2023 at the Neckerhall and de Necker Sports Grounds and on the grounds of the Mechelen Tennis and Hockey Club.

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Amber Webster

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