New Unified Sports Programme launched

by UNICEF and Special Olympics

Tina Dimić Raičević
MMinister of Sport and Youth, Nikola Janović, Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer, Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia, Martha Jo Braycich and UNICEF Montenegro Representative, Osama Khogali
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
08 November 2019

PODGORICA, 6 NOVEMBER 2019 – The UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, Osama Khogali, and the Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia, Martha Jo Braycich, today launched a new Unified Sports Programme aimed at creating new opportunities for young people with and without disabilities to socialize through sport and recreational activities in Podgorica and Nikšić.

Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer playing with Mirko, a Special Olympics participant from Podgorica, in November 2019
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer playing with Mirko, a Special Olympics participant from Podgorica, in November 2019

On the occasion, the Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia, Martha Jo Braycich, stressed that by launching an inclusive sports initiative for young people with and without intellectual disabilities in Montenegro UNICEF and Special Olympics have taken another important step forward in creating an inclusive society.

Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia, Martha Jo Braycich
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia, Martha Jo Braycich speaking at the event of launching a new Unified Sports Programme in Podgorica in November 2019

The programme is based on a simple principle: that training and playing together is a quick path to friendships and understanding.

Martha Jo Braycich, Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia

She urged the Minister of Sport and Youth, Nikola Janović, who was a guest of honour at the event, that the sports element of the programme should not be disregarded, since it is extremely important, as participants, to learn new sports, develop higher-level sports skills and enjoy the thrill of competing.

The uniqueness of the programme is that, as these young people are kicking a ball, running around a court or jumping into a pool, they are breaking down barriers of discrimination, setting examples not only of good sportsmanship, but also of good citizenship, and they are creating communities that are welcoming, tolerant and accepting.

Martha Jo Braycich, Head of Operations of the Special Olympics for Europe and Euroasia

The UNICEF Representative to Montenegro, Osama Khogali, noted how proud he was of the partnership with the Special Olympics in Montenegro in creating an inclusive society.

We are proud for three particular reasons. First, because all children have the same rights; second, because children with intellectual disabilities are often among the most discriminated groups in the society; and third, because this programme promotes sports for every child.

Osama Khogali, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro
UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
UNICEF Representative to Montenegro Osama Khogali speaking at the event of launching a new Unified Sports Programme in Podgorica in November 2019

He also noted that all of us together have to create more opportunities for all children, with or without disabilities alike, to realize their rights and their full potential.

The Special Olympics Unified Sports Programme is a great opportunity to achieve this objective. It allows children with and without intellectual disabilities to engage in sports and become friends. This kind of life experience is extremely beneficial for the development of every child.

Osama Khogali, UNICEF Representative to Montenegro

The launch of the new inclusive programme was attended by a special guest, the Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer, who voiced her thanks for the opportunity to take part in such an important event.

Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership, Lucy Meyer speaking at the event of launching a new Unified Sports Programme in Podgorica in November 2019

My mission is to help all children, with or without disabilities, to reach their full potential.

Lucy Meyer, Spokesperson for the UNICEF–Special Olympics Partnership

Lucy Meyer is a five-time gold medallist in swimming competitions of the Special Olympics and a spokesperson for the inclusion of children with disabilities for UNICEF US, who has so far helped raise over half a million dollars for UNICEF support programmes for children with disabilities.

The event was also attended by the US Ambassador in Montenegro, Judy Rising Rainke.

After the welcoming speeches, Meyer joined her peers with and without intellectual disabilities in playing football and table tennis.

Lucy Meyer joined her peers with and without intellectual disabilities at the event of launching a new Unified Sports Programme in Podgorica, in November 2019
UNICEF Montenegro / Duško Miljanić / 2019
Lucy Meyer joined her peers with and without intellectual disabilities at the event of launching a new Unified Sports Programme in Podgorica, in November 2019

Within the framework of the new youth inclusion programme, with the financial support of the global financial institution ING, four secondary schools in Podgorica and Nikšić will set up inclusive sport teams with equal numbers of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. This Special Olympics programme received international recognition in 2002 and is currently implemented in over 100 countries worldwide.

The Special Olympics enables children, young people and adults across the globe to be involved in sports regardless of the type and severity of their intellectual disabilities. In Montenegro, the Special Olympics hosts a number of national competitions in seven sports: football, basketball, table tennis, athletics, skiing, volleyball and lawn bowls.