Competition begins today at the inaugural Special Olympics Asia Pacific Unified Badminton Championships in Bangkok.
Hosted by Special Olympics Thailand and supported by the Badminton Association of Thailand, some 150 athletes from 14 countries are taking part.
The tournament encourages athletes with intellectual disabilities to display courage, passion and skills as part of a global movement to create positive change and drive social inclusion.
In March, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and Special Olympics International (SOI) signed a landmark Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to increase the growth, quality and frequency of badminton participation around the world.
The shared aim is to ensure that all Special Olympics badminton players realise the positive mental, physical and social health benefits of sport.
BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer said it is with great pride that the first unified Special Olympics Championships since the landmark MoU signing takes place.
“As the International Federation, we are so excited to be part of this event, and I thank Special Olympics Thailand for their leadership, dedication and support of badminton within Special Olympics movement,” he said.
“This is a fantastic first step in the partnership between BWF and Special Olympics International.
“In line with our motto that badminton is a sport for all, the BWF is committed to providing avenues of participation for everyone and we hope these championships will enable more children and adults with intellectual disabilities to experience more badminton.”
Dipak Natali, Acting President and Managing Director of Special Olympics Asia Pacific, told Indo-Asian News Service: “I am hopeful that this inaugural unified championship will foster deeper understanding and friendships between people with and without intellectual disabilities across the region.
“It confirms what millions of badminton fans across Asia already know – the power of sport to elevate, unite and include.”
Already in the Asia Pacific region, Special Olympics has collaborated with Badminton Asia and Badminton Oceania to equip coaches with resources and skills to deliver inclusive, high-quality badminton training to athletes with and without intellectual disabilities.
Between 2017 and 2018, there was a 25,000 increase in the number of Special Olympics athletes taking up the sport across the Asia Pacific region.
The Special Olympics Asia Pacific Unified Badminton Championships officially opened yesterday with a number of Thailand’s biggest music and sports stars joining the athletes in a night of celebration.