2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games

Honourable senators, I will be in Toronto tomorrow afternoon to attend the celebratory send-off of our Canadian Special Olympics athletes to Athens, Greece, to compete in the 13th Special Olympics World Summer Games. These games include 22 sports, and Canada will participate in 7 of them: 10-pin bowling, athletics, powerlifting, rhythmic gymnastics, soccer, softball and swimming.

Team Canada is a 147-member group of athletes and mission staff representing every province and one territory. Hailing from Ottawa is Marianne Scharf, who has been involved with Special Olympics for 22 years. Like all her teammates, Marianne is participating in these games not only to test her abilities in international competition, but also to honour her country with her best performance.

In all, 7,500 athletes from 185 nations will take part in the World Summer Games from June 25 to July 4. It will be the world’s largest sporting event this year.

Over the years, I have been involved in several Special Olympics events, small and large — from the village of Navan, just nearby, to Nagano and Shanghai — and I am excited to be going to this one in Athens. The athletes generate such positive energy through their commitment to sportsmanship and determination. There is nothing like being right there to cheer them on.

The Special Olympics is about winning at life, as Senator Demers knows. Special Olympics Canada enables athletes of all ages and abilities to enjoy opportunities to train and compete. Over 32,000 athletes are involved with the organization. Add to this their family and friends, and multiply this by all of us who benefit from our society growing more and more inclusive. The impact of Special Olympics in Canada and throughout the world is huge, and I am proud to do whatever I can to support its causes and programs.

I think it is important to say thank you — and this is a big thank you — to the Government of Canada. I am pleased to say that our government also recognizes Special Olympics Canada. My friend Finance Minister Flaherty is a very generous person. The Honourable Jim Flaherty announced in the budget a generous increase of $800,000 a year to Special Olympics Canada. The organization and supporters like me are thankful for the government’s support and are powerfully encouraged to keep forging ahead. I look forward to hearing Minister Flaherty speak at tomorrow’s send-off.

I extend my best wishes to all members of Team Canada 2011 as they set out to fulfill the Special Olympics oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”