The Special Olympics Winter World Games are officially canceled



Inclusion, acceptance, and unity are values that the Special Olympics Movement have held close since their first International Games in 1968. The World Games are at the movement’s center, alternating between winter and summer every two years, bringing together an athletic community with victories over huge odds. The World Winter Games, originally scheduled to begin on Jan. 21, 2023, have been cancelled with heavy hearts, as the community and athletes’ safety could no longer be guaranteed in Kazan, Russia due to the ongoing conflict with Ukraine. 

“I feel that the cancelling of the World Special Olympics due to Ukraine and Russia’s violence is saddening to those involved. I think the volunteers and athletes are frustrated as they do not get to showcase their talents and teamwork abilities,” Owen Stubbs, junior, said.  

Special Olympics International have worked hard with people around the world to improve the opportunities available for those with intellectual disabilities. However, with the horrors in Ukraine and the international community’s extensive sanctions, the fear made it too difficult for the movement to move forward with the Kazan World Winter Games. The organization claims its only limitation is its capacity to protect the movement’s effectiveness, making it hard to ensure the athletes’ and volunteers’ safety amongst the violence. 

This cancellation is devastating to us, to our athletes in Ukraine, to our athletes in Russia, and to our athletes around the world who have trained for years to compete. We are grateful to people of good will within Russia and around the world who worked for years to make these Games a success, and while the Games will not take place, we commit ourselves to continue working with the Special Olympics Program there, now, and in the future,” the Special Olympics said. 

The Winter games were originally supposed to be held in 2022 but had been postponed due to COVID-19. Kazan was picked for the games in 2020 as Special Olympics’ first global competition in Russia with the hope that it would spread positivity about intellectual disabilities in the country. The event had expected more than 1,000 athletes from more than 100 nations, with thousands of volunteers around the world to help. 

“It breaks my heart for all the athletes who have worked so hard to overcome their disabilities and participate in the Games, especially after the original postponement. I imagine the volunteers were also disappointed about the cancellation because it seems like it would have been a truly amazing event to be involved in,” Savannah Pullen, sophomore, said. 

Even with the cancellation, excitement moves to the Summer Games’ countdown in Berlin, Germany from June 17 to 25, 2023. The country is welcoming over 7,000 athletes to participate in 24 summer sports. If one is interested in getting involved in the movement, visit here to explore ways to donate.