Last June 17, the Flame of Hope was lit in Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany for the world’s largest inclusive sports event: the Special Olympics. Among the 50 thousand spectators were Akiko Thomson-Guevara OLY, Nancy Christiaens, and Coach Airnel Abarra from Adrenaline Solutions (AS).
The 2023 Special Olympics World Games drew over 6,500 athletes from 176 countries. Behind the scenes of the games were 3,000 coaches and officials, and 18,000 volunteers who took care of the athletes and helped run the events. The Special Olympics has been going strong since 1968 when it was first held in Chicago, Illinois, USA. This year’s Games will last from June 17 to 25.
In this incredible event, three AS team members – from Southeast Asia and Europe – arrived for different reasons.
Akiko, AS Vice President for International Sports Development, went there as the Head of the Philippine Delegation for the Special Olympics. The Southeast Asian nation sent 6 athletes and 2 unified partners competing in 3 disciplines: athletics, swimming, and bocce. In the context of the Special Olympics, unified indicates typical individuals paired with special athletes to form a team. The unified partners are for bocce. She came to immerse herself in the world of Special OLympics and cheer on the Filipino team as well as the other athletes.
Nancy is the AS Events Management and Marketing Coordinator and has played a crucial role during the USCCE events. She volunteered as a Delegation Assistance Liaison (DAL) and was assigned to the delegation for Trinidad and Tobago. As a DAL volunteer, she helped support the delegation 24/7. Before the World Games started, the delegations and the volunteers went to Seligenstadt, the German Host Town, to participate in activities, such as touring the city, discovering German cuisine, and attending a local concert. Nancy was looking forward to cheering for the athletes and experiencing her first Special Olympics.
Coach Airnel, AS Director of Sport Science Research, was a logistics volunteer for cycling in the Special Olympics. He assisted in the needs of the cycling event, such as setting up equipment and serving as a lane marshal during the event. He was excited at the opportunity to learn from organizing such a large inclusive event. Coach Airnel basked in the tolerance and positive work ethics seen during the games.
Even though they came from different parts of the world, the Olympian, the student, and the coach first met during the online gatherings of Adrenaline Solutions. The Nancy and Akiko discovered each other during a dinner that was organized for the Head of Delegations and DALs. They were able to connect in person after staying in touch online for over a year. After that occasion, they were able to encounter each other every now and then during the Summer Games.
Coach Airnel encountered Akiko during the course of the Summer Olympics. They helf lively discussions about the Special Olympics experience and the importance of integrating special athletes into sport and society.
“Moments like these show how global and diverse Adrenaline Solutions is,” remarked AS Founder Coach Marc O. Dagenais. “It’s wonderful when two members from different continents are able to meet because of their shared love of sports.”