“The Special Olympics - Virtus Israel” holds amateur sports activities and competitions for people with cognitive disabilities, autism, and Down syndrome.
The number of athletes active in the association is approximately 3,500 (children age 8 and up, youth, and adolescents). These athletes participate year round in competitions and sports days in 18 different sports (Olympic and otherwise) which are customized for their level of ability.
The following is a list of the sports: Cycling, athletics, bowling, Bocce, judo, floor hockey, table tennis, tennis, football, basketball, Newcomb ball, running in the snow, adapted physical activities, Pétanque, rowing (kayaking), horseback riding, swimming, and swimming in open water.
The primary objective of the Association’s work is to promote and reinforce the capacities of people through sports exercise and competitions, and thus help improve their physical skills, emotional resilience, independent functioning, and equal acceptance in society. So they can be a source of pride for their families and supporting institutions. During these sports activities, athletes develop many diverse abilities and make progress in terms of their physical and mental health as well as socially. We applaud each athlete’s individual abilities and allow them to advance and compete according to their capacity and professional levels.
One of the association’s additional goals is to include young children in sporting activities by studying and practicing basic sports skills. Our intention is to create awareness of the importance of sporting activity from a young age. In the framework of this objective, we hold “Young Athlete” events targeted at children 4-7 years of age at kindergartens and special education schools. These activities are also suitable for children with mobility issues (who use walkers or wheelchairs). The activities for these children are customized for their abilities and include experiential games. These easy and accessible activities can also be performed at school and at home by kindergarten teachers, teachers, parents, and family members. As stated, during the year we organize competitions in the various sports including experiential sports days.
From our perspective, sports must be based on universal values such as the right of all to participate. Based on this perspective, participation in the Association’s activities is free of charge for institutions and/or athletes and is open to all individuals with intellectual disabilities, autism, and Down syndrome, irrespective of their disabilities and/or restrictions. The Association considers the participation of athletes’ families to be of profound importance in supporting athletes in their activities year-round in general and in participating in the various activities in particular.
A key element of the Association’s activities is promoting the integration of special sports in everyday society both via PR activities at educational institutions and many other organizations, by introducing the Association’s activities in general and by unified sports activities in which both Association and mainstream athletes participate. This leads to community acceptance of special athletes, with respect and appreciation for them as individuals and as athletes.