NBA stars join Special Olympics South Africa in celebrating Mandela Day

SOSA and the NBA will celebrate Mandela Day on Friday under the theme “do what you can with what you have and where you are.”

FILE: SOSA and the NBA will celebrate Mandela Day on July 22 under the theme “do what you can with what you have and where you are.” Photo: AFP

JOHANNESBURG – “It is up to us to adapt our understanding of a common humanity; to learn the richness of the diversity of human life; to recognize the presence of disability in our human environment as an enrichment of our diversity,” said Nelson Mandela at the Disability Conference, April 2004.

The late statesman was a champion of the rights of people from all walks of life and had a special place for people with disabilities, advocating for their inclusion in society.

“Celebrating Mandela Day is of particular significance to Special Olympics South Africa (SOSA) as the former President was instrumental in bringing Special Olympics to South Africa,” said SOSA CEO, Ancilla Smith, at Eyewitness News.

SOSA and the NBA will celebrate Mandela Day on Friday under the theme “do what you can with what you have and where you are.”

Madiba was an iconic figure in the world of sport – he had a keen interest in boxing, rugby and football, and played a pivotal role in inspiring the Springboks to Rugby World Cup glory in 1995.

“Former President Mandela officially opened the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Ireland. The ‘Flame of Hope’, the official torch of Special Olympics, was lit by Madiba in his former cell on Robben Island to signal the launch of Special Olympics South Africa. SOSA and the NBA share Madiba’s belief in the transformative power of sport,” Smith said.

Special Olympics athletes are proof of ‘our ability to overcome difficulties and obstacles’, U2’s Bono quoted the former statesman as he opened the World Games opening ceremony summer of 2003 in Ireland.

“The message of inclusion is the cornerstone of the mission of Special Olympics. People living with intellectual disabilities, not only in South Africa, but around the world, face daily exclusion, discrimination and to stigma.

“As South Africans we pride ourselves on having one of the most progressive constitutions in the world, and Madiba was instrumental in drafting that constitution, but we still have a long way to go. ensuring that we have a truly inclusive society and that all South Africans have equal access to basic human rights,” Smith said.

“Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting social inclusion through the sharing of sports training and competition experiences. We offer a unique model of inclusive sport called Unified Sport. Unified Sport brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. He was inspired by a simple principle: training together and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.”

On Friday, July 22, SOSA and the NBA will celebrate Mandela Day, celebrating inclusion by engaging learners with and without intellectual disabilities in Alexandra Township through a unified sport and basketball day. inclusive.

“There are many issues that need to be addressed, but what we all need to work on right now is to create an environment for people with disabilities to guide us on what inclusion should look like for them. “

“Because I saw a lot of myself in our athletes, the sport meant a lot to me as a young kid from a small town, having lost my mother quite early in my life. I wanted to be someone who could have an influence about their journey, something that was a long way off for me growing up,” SOSA Ambassador Sbu Shongwe told Eyewitness News.

“Absolutely! Madiba stood for values ​​that we should still live to this day, that never go away. It’s not about the man, it’s about the legacy he left behind, that’s why we quote it as much,” Shongwe said.

The event will also celebrate the long-standing global partnership between Special Olympics International and the NBA.

“Parents are an important part of the Special Olympics network and lead specific initiatives to support parents and encourage them to become more involved with our organization. We have family support networks across the country, many of our parents are training to become Special Olympics coaches and volunteer at events and in other areas of the organization,” Smith said.

In 2019, the International Basketball Foundation (IBF) and Special Olympics announced their partnership at the FIBA ​​Open in Mies. This cooperation marked their shared commitment to harnessing the power of Special Olympics Unified Sports with the goal of fostering inclusion on and off the basketball court.

“Inclusion means making sure everyone has the opportunity to do something, whoever they are, regardless of race, class and orientation,” Shongwe said.

The NBA and Special Olympics hold an NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game each year prior to the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game in the United States. Select Special Olympics basketball players compete alongside NBA legends and current/former WNBA players.

“People are invited to become Special Olympics South Africa Ambassadors based on their commitment to our athletes and the organization. Many of our Ambassadors started out as supporters of the organization and have impressed us with their passion for creating real change for people living with intellectual disabilities in South Africa,” said Smith.

Throughout the year, the Jr. NBA hosts basketball clinics for Special Olympics athletes, coaches and volunteers around the world.

“Especially the interaction with the kids in Alex and other townships, we need sports so badly in our time in South Africa. Children need to be more active, get involved in activities that make them grow,” Shongwe said of Friday’s event.

22nd at Alex events will include a skills workshop led by NBA coaches and a recreational Unified Celebrity basketball game.

“Alexandra is where we started piloting Special Olympics basketball in South Africa. It’s a fairly new sporting code for us and we are very lucky to have our Special Olympics coach Harry Nakeng based in Alex Harry received a scholarship from the US State Department’s Sports Diplomacy Division and he participated in the Championship Principles virtual training program led by former NBA pro and head coach, Sam Vincent. spearheading basketball development in Alex. The NBA has also hosted previous events there and are thrilled to be back in Alexandra to spend a day on the court with the youth,” said Smith.

The anti-apartheid leader, former South African president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate who died at the age of 95, was once quoted as saying: “Children with disabilities are also entitled to an exciting and bright future “, during the first annual South African Junior Wheelchair Sports Camp in Johannesburg on December 4, 1994.

And today, NBA talent, Special Olympics Ambassadors and other celebrities join Special Olympics athletes for a day of inclusive basketball to celebrate the icon.

The event will take place at the Three Square Sport Complex in Alexander. Attendees will include 90 SOSA athletes and Unified Partners as well as SOSA ambassadors, NBA talent and other celebrities.

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