It is a true honour for our country to host the Special Olympics Malta Invitational Games 2022. And I say this for two reasons. Firstly, it is a unique opportunity for Malta to send a strong and powerful message about inclusion across Europe. And, secondly, it is a beautiful celebration of unity.

In the past months, Special Olympics Malta worked tirelessly to ensure that these Games are a success. But the athletes themselves are the ones who worked the hardest in order to participate in the Games and be here with us.

These Invitational Games are a platform for all athletes, local and foreign, to display their abilities. They give athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance and opportunity to fulfil their dreams.

As after all, it is when we believe in our abilities and of those around us that we reach our full potential and reach highs that we have never dreamt of before.

We have all experienced some form of struggle in life or navigated through dark times. But knowing that there is light at the end of the tunnel gives us hope: hope to achieve, hope to accomplish and hope to be part of something bigger than oneself.

And I witnessed this same ray of hope and willpower on the faces of athletes when visiting them during their training and preparatory sessions. The sense of determination and commitment on the faces of family members, coaches and volunteers, who supported the athletes, cheering them all the way and making sure that they get back up each time they fall. And it was at that moment that I realised how much this event meant to them.

It surely means a lot to our country to be hosting them but its significance is even greater for the athletes and their families. It is not just a matter of reaching the finish line. It is about being able to give it your all, to have tried your very best and to show the world just how valuable our abilities are.

Apart from inclusion, these Games also showcase how truly important sport is. Sport gives us a sense of purpose and determination and boosts our drive to turn our lives for the better. As a nation, we have witnessed the launch of several initiatives to encourage participation in sport and increase physical activity.

A unique opportunity for Malta to send a strong message about inclusion across Europe- Lydia Abela

The national agency for sport, Sport Malta, has embarked on a national campaign to get everyone moving. A healthy body leads to a positive state of mental well-being, thus improving cognitive agility. Our society needs to recognise the benefits of physical well-being and its effects on our overall health in order to start reaping results in this field while, in parallel, adapting healthy and clean eating habits.

Besides this, sport also unifies people. It has the unique power to not only unite a group of people but, just like in these Games, it unifies nations. It provides the perfect setting to bring people together, to share different beliefs, values, and experiences. And, amid all that diversity, there is one common aim: to participate actively and fully and celebrate one’s abilities.

These Games are, therefore, enhancing inclusion and promoting the unifying power of sport and I am truly humbled by all this. I am humbled to have been part of the athletes’ success, witnessed their strengths and for having experienced the joy that sport has given to all the participants of these Games.

I look forward to the next two days, not only to honour the athletes with their respective medals but to share this moment with the Special Olympics family. It is a vast nationwide community that shares the power of hope and unity through sport while celebrating all diverse abilities.

I also wish the Maltese athletes and delegation the very best for the Games. Take pride in participating and fly our Maltese flag high. But, most importantly, enjoy the experience!

We have so much to be proud of as a nation and we are immensely proud of you.

Lydia Abela - Special Olympics Malta President

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