President Reuven Rivlin today, Thursday, November 22/ 14 Kislev, welcomed athletes of the Special Olympics to Beit HaNasi as part of the launch of the team that will participate in the 2019 Special Olympic games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The event opened with a judo exhibition bout between Arik Ze’evi and Levav Barkan, a Special Olympian and the winner of the contest.

Rabbi Shai Piron, Chairman of Special Olympics Israel, David Evangelista, Regional President & Managing Director, Europe Eurasia of Special Olympics and Dr. Nissim Levy, Honorary President of Special Olympics Israel also participated in the event. Special Olympian swimmer Shai Dagan presented the president with a Play Unified ball, which symbolises the links between people with and without intellectual disabilities.

In his remarks President Rivlin said,“Anyone who has ever participated in any sport knows that one of the secrets of success is how you use your strength. In sport, it isn’t enough to be strong if you want to win. As people who work every day on their disciplines, with determination and extraordinary mental strength you are experts in how to use your strength. You know when to let go and to conserve your strength and when to push yourself to your limit. That spirit that you bring with you to the Special Olympics is something we can all learn and draw inspiration from. Because of it, you are winners before the competition even starts.”

The president added “you prove with your bodies that our minds have an incredible way of bringing our bodies to life, of surprising it, achieving things that at first sight appear impossible. You prove that human will is the most important force in nature. We are fortunate to live in a time of change. But allow me to hope that in the near future we will no longer need Special Olympics, and that you can take your part and compete in world sports. I wish that the day will come when the Olympic Games will include competitions of different kinds and allow you to compete, to dream and to win.”

Rav Piron told the audience of athletes and supporters, “Special Olympics brings hope for a world in which values lead public discourse and thinking. Sport is the way to create a better society and to connect between different parts of society.”

Evangelista began his remarks mentioning the origins of the Special Olympics founded in 1968, by Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Today it is the world's largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to 5 million athletes in 172 countries.  “As Israel is celebrating 70 years of independence and Special Olympics is celebrating 50 years, the event today is an invitation from our athletes for everyone to join our world. It’s a world of competition without victims. They invite everyone to a world where you will see them as they are – strong,” concluded the regional leader.

Ilana Yahav did an original sand art piece to impressive the filled Presidential hall at the end of the program, before the President rose to leave and was surrounded by well-wishers.