This coming Sunday, for once, it is not 1. FC Union that is causing emotions in the An der Alten Försterei stadium. The opening event of the National Games Special Olympics 2022 starts at 7.30 p.m. in Köpenick. Together with the visitors in the Köpenicker Stadium, 4000 athletes are celebrating that they have the opportunity to do sports together again until June 24th, to meet and to also qualify for the World Games for people with mental and multiple disabilities in Berlin in 2023.

Canoeist Juliana Rößler can hardly wait for the sports festival. “I have to admit that I can hardly sleep. My mother and many spectators will be there for the games and I am sure we will have a great opening ceremony. I feel really good when I think about it,” said the 1. FC Union supporter at the press conference in the roof lounge of rbb, which accompanies the event extensively in terms of media. A sign language interpreter accompanied the event.

Rößler is also one of several athletes in a lovingly and intelligently designed RBB report that will be broadcast next Saturday at 5:20 p.m. The film not only gives deep insights into how the athletes prepare for their competitions and the everyday problems they have to struggle with as people with intellectual disabilities. Swimmer Silvio Wunsch says: “In the water I have to contend with far fewer barriers than on land.”

The National Games deliberately go far beyond the sporting competitions. They should also be a demonstration for more recognition and social participation of people with intellectual disabilities. “It’s not nice to always be an outsider,” says Juliana Rößler. “And it doesn’t feel good to be stared at all the time either. I would much prefer it if people asked me.” She and the other athletes hope that the games will help to change perceptions. “We’re not at the Paralympics here, that’s for people with physical disabilities,” Silvio Wunsch clears up a common misunderstanding in the documentary.

In contrast to the Paralympics, which are traditionally held a few days after the Olympic Games, the world competitions for people with intellectual disabilities also take place every four years, but are geographically completely separate. “In terms of the number of participants, we are dealing with one of the largest sporting events in the world,” says Sven Albrecht, Managing Director of the Special Olympics World Games Berlin 2023 Organizing Committee barriers in everyday life, Albrecht was unable to get through because of the bicycle rally on Sunday and he only reached the event in the Westend significantly late.

At the Special Olympics next year, 192 nations will probably be represented in Berlin, providing a total of around 10,000 participants. “Of course it is our aim to organize competitions at the highest level and appropriate competition venues.” The National Games should now be the dress rehearsal for this.

The participants of the National Games will start in 20 sports. The venues are spread across the city, from the Olympic Park to the regatta course in Grünau. The golf competitions take place in Bad Saarow, Brandenburg. The Bowling World next to the East Side Gallery in Friedrichshain is definitely unusual.

In addition to many classic Olympic competitions, the Special Olympics program also includes disciplines such as bowling, boccia, powerlifting and roller skating. “People with severe mental disabilities can also get a chance, especially when it comes to boccia,” says Albrecht, who points out that, for example, athletes with Down syndrome can do dizzying exercises in gymnastics.

It is not the purpose of the competitions to focus on the disabilities. For Albrecht, it’s much more about showing “what extraordinary achievements the participants are capable of.” The focus is on three things: being seen, heard and respected. Everything that is often neglected in everyday life.