Once upon a time the Gambia was among the few African countries with the best-organized Special Olympics programme and team, a formal secretariat and big legion of volunteers.
Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in nearly 170 countries.
Special Olympics competitions are held every day, all around the world—including local, national and regional competitions, adding up to more than 108,000 events a year. Like the International Paralympic Committee, the Special Olympics organisation is recognised by the International Olympic Committee; however, unlike the Paralympic Games, Special Olympics World Games are not held in the same year or in conjunction with the Olympic Games.
In the 90s to early 2000s the Gambia had one of the best programmes in this sport but over years, the sport died down.
”This was largely due to the fact that we lost most of our key financers, supporters and volunteers who were serving as board members. Special Olympics needs good Samaritans philanthropists and volunteers who has compassion for the disable in our society”, said Alieu Cham the national Volunteer director.
He recalled the likes of the then Kairaba Beach Hotel Manager Luc Verschelden who is still around and, Dirk Dathe of Senegambia the late Ousainou Njie, Musa Njie formerly of the Independent Stadium among many others who have donated and assisted special Olympics in very big way as board members,”Mr Cham said.
But he said all efforts are being done to rebuild the sport in the Gambia and ‘we have had initial meetings to touch base as well as constitute a new board of vulunteers and pretty soon special Olympics will be up and running again”.
He said the next step is to get organised and recruit athletes and create programmes locally and gradually get back to the top again.’
“This would require volunteers and contributions by the affluent and compassionate people in the country and we are glad that we still have a few who are willing to support the sport,” he said.
Luc Verschelden, a pillar behind the Gambian special Olympics in its hay days is back and fully engaged in the revival. ”We are eager to get special Olympics back on a sound footing,” he said.
Mr Cham called all to support the federation in the quest to revive special Olympics in the Gambia The Special Olympics Gambia can be contacted in care of the Gambia National Olympic Committee GNOC at Olympic House on Tel. 9908741.