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Johannesburg, South Africa – In an historic moment of recognition, the 2023 Special Olympics South Africa National Team received a profound honour yesterday as His Excellency, President Cyril Ramaphosa, warmly welcomed them to a special ceremony hosted at the iconic Union Buildings in Pretoria.

This event, a significant milestone in South Africa’s history, is especially poignant given the late President Nelson Mandela’s support for Special Olympics South Africa.

For the first time, the National Government of South Africa officially acknowledged and celebrated the extraordinary achievements of individuals with intellectual disabilities in the realm of sports.

This momentous occasion was imbued with pride and inspiration as President Ramaphosa congratulated the 2023 National Team for their exceptional achievements on the global stage at the 2023 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Berlin, Germany. Competing against 7,000 athletes from over 180 countries, they exhibited unwavering determination and sportsmanship, returning home with an impressive medal haul that included 22 Gold Medals, 20 Silver Medals, and 7 Bronze Medals.

The team’s dedication and sportsmanship have not only filled South Africa with pride but have also cast a brilliant spotlight on the immense talent within the community of individuals with intellectual disabilities.

This recognition by President Ramaphosa exemplifies the importance of acknowledging and empowering individuals with intellectual disabilities through sports, reaffirming South Africa’s commitment to inclusivity in society.

During the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, a record number of government ministries from the African Region were represented. Furthermore, five countries, namely Angola, Ghana, Kenya, Seychelles, and South Africa, are poised to sign the Special Olympics Global Leadership Coalition for Inclusion pledge—a ground breaking multilateral effort supported by Special Olympics to advance the cause of people with intellectual disabilities. This initiative unites governments, industry, philanthropy, and the development community in a shared global commitment to enhance inclusive practices in education and sport, creating more inclusive schools and communities.

The inaugural Coalition members were announced at a high-level leaders’ roundtable hosted on the side-lines of the 2023 Special Olympics World Games in Berlin, with five African countries making their commitment to inclusion.

Yesterday President Ramaphosa confirmed South Africa’s commitment to being an active member of the Global Coalition.

Dr Mathews Phosa, Chairperson of Special Olympics South Africa welcomed the President’s commitment to the Global Coalition “Our athletes want to be heard, and they demand inclusion, respect, and equal opportunities. They declare that they are here to show the world their talents and abilities, and they deserve nothing less than our unwavering support.”

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