BSB is proud that, after a two-year hiatus due to Covid, the annual BSB and Special Olympics Belgium ‘Play Unified’ Swimming Gala finally took place on 5 March with local swimming clubs, Special Olympians and BSB athletes all taking part in BSB’s state-of-the-art pool on a family friendly day. Athletes didn’t only come together to swim and enjoy the awards ceremony, but also to show off their dancing skills and enjoy a meal together.
A longstanding collaboration
Special Olympics Belgium launched the ‘Play Unified’ campaign in 2016. It was introduced with the aim of connecting 20,000 people with intellectual disabilities with partners in sports clubs and federations all over Belgium. About 25 swimmers from BSB volunteered to compete alongside the Special Olympic Athletes at the gala on Saturday, covering every age group of the school’s Swimming teams. The races took place over short distances – 25 and 50m – in the basic strokes, and there were also relay races with mixed teams comprising BSB and Special Olympics swimmers.
“Play United is a programme within the Special Olympics movement to allow for athletes with disabilities to compete with other athletes as equals,” said Coordinator Luc De Groote, the lead teacher for the event. “For this to be a success all need to show empathy, respect and enthusiasm. Our student athletes showed these virtues so well they created a perfect atmosphere for excellent performances.”
This month’s ‘Play Unified’ Swimming Gala was organised by BSB students as part of their CAS (Creativity, Activity and Service) work. The student-run initiative was conceived as a way to promote Special Olympics in Belgium but also to make a positive difference for people with disabilities and encourage them to take part in sports/enrichment activities.
“One of the things which made the day such a success was how well the CAS students performed their tasks,” added Luc. “They made sure the event ran smoothly, no one was overlooked, the Special Olympics athletes felt respected and supported and always had a helping hand when they needed one. The visiting coaches were very, very impressed. We are already looking forward to next year, where we will look into the possibility of offering the Play United event to more sports than just swimming.”
A shared philosophy
“BSB enjoys a longstanding relationship with Special Olympics Belgium for over 25 years, based on a shared philosophy and the values of solidarity, respect and integration. An event such as this is great for everyone as we aim to develop confident students who engage actively and ethically with the world around them,” added Melanie Warnes, Principal at BSB.
Congratulations to all the swimmers that took part for making the Gala such a success. Thanks too to all those who helped organise the event and provide the entertainment.
See you next time!