Celebrating the International Day of Sports with the President of Zambia

His Excellency Edgar Lungu, President of the Republic of Zambia, called for an end to discrimination against children with special needs when he participated in Unified Sports® with Special Olympics Zambia on Friday, 6 April 2018.

President Lungu took the occasion of the International Day of Sports for Peace and Development to show his support for the global social inclusion movement. The day was declared by the United Nations to celebrate the power of sport to drive social change, community development, and to foster peace and understanding.

Speaking at the Olympic Youth Development Center, a world class sports facility in Lusaka, the country’s capital, highlighted that discrimination against children with special needs was forcing them to be excluded even from sports activities, as reported by the state broadcaster, the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC).

According to President Lungu,

We know there are some people hidden in homes. When visitors come, they lock them up. We know. The work this NGO is doing, they have discovered a lot of heart breaking experiences where people are locked up because they are disabled.

“So we are trying to free those people, so they can come out, and be seen to be part of us. This (today’s event) is an exemplification of leaving no one behind. Why aren’t we giving them a chance? Let’s give them a chance!”

ZNBC TV1, the national broadcaster, covered the President’s support of the International Day of Sports for Peace and Development with Special Olympics Zambia.

The Zambian leader also took time to interact with the children and was part of a fitness session for Special Olympics. President of the Republic of Zambia since 2015, Lungu regularly leads fitness sessions twice a week to promote sports and a healthy lifestyle in his country.

The day’s events, as well as demonstrating the importance of fitness and exercise, included Unified Relay Races of such as 50m x 8, 100m x 4 Wheelchair Relay Race and 100m x 4 Relay.

The president was accompanied by cabinet ministers, his press aide, state house officers and senior government officials. President Lungu was also presented with a Special Olympics medal of recognition by a Special Olympics athlete, after presenting five wheelchairs donated by Shoprite Zambia.

According to ZNBC, the participation of Zambia’s Head of State to mark this day shows the importance government attaches to developing athletes with special needs.

Joy, friends and exercise

Dr. Clement Chileshe, Vice Chair of Special Olympics Zambia and Director of the Olympic Youth, told MUZI TV that:

The President sending that message is critical so that families that have been hiding children with disabilities out there begin to be brave, and bring them out so they can have a normal life like everyone else.

The fact that they are disabled, doesn’t mean they don’t need achildhood like any other child would need: the joy, the friendships, and most importantly the exercise.

Mr. Charles Nyambe, President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Africa Region, attended the event and told MUZI TV that:

Our work is to ensure that those people with intellectual disabilities who are normally hidden away, are brought into the light. And you can only bring them into the light through events like this where it’s supported by the entire government, where the Head of State, His Excellency himself, sees the importance of inclusion.

This is the message we are sending, a message of inclusion. Because people with intellectual disabilities and physical disabilities are excluded, they are the population that is most excluded in this world.

In September 2017, Her Excellency Mrs. Esther Lungu was unveiled as the Special Olympics 50th Anniversary Champion for Africa Region. Read more about the First Lady’s role here.

Since 1968, Special Olympics has been changing attitudes about the talents of people with intellectual disabilities. Starting this July, Special Olympics is celebrating 50 years of creating a more inclusive, welcoming world for all. Read more about the 50th Anniversary here.

“My passion for people with disabilities is not new to me, it is in my blood” said Her Excellency Mrs. Esther Lungu at her unveiling as 50th Anniversary Ambassador for Special Olympics Africa Region on 12 September 2017, at the Olympic Youth Development.

ESPN and Special Olympics Unified Sports®

For over 30 years, ESPN has supported the Special Olympics movement and inclusive sports. Since 2013, ESPN has partnered to support Special Olympics’ Play Unified campaign, which fosters friendships, understanding, and inclusive communities among people with and without intellectual disabilities by uniting them through the power and joy of sports. ESPN provides the Global Presenting Sponsorship of Unified Sports, which has reached more than 1.3 million athletes around the world, including over 80,000 participants in Africa Region. To learn about the Play Unified campaign, visit www.specialolympics.org and www.playunified.org.

Special Olympics Zambia athletes regularly play Unified Sports on the football fields of the Olympic Youth Development Centre in Lusaka, supported by ESPN.

Revealing the champion inside all of us, every day around the world and in Africa! Sports and health programming for people with intellectual disabilities.