The iconic winter sport venues of Östersund and Åre play host to 300 Special Olympics athletes who have come to Sweden to compete in the Special Olympics Invitational Games 2020.

The event, which runs from the 1 to 4 of February, is the first of its kind to be hosted in Sweden with athletes with intellectual disabilities travelling from as far afield as Hong Kong and India.

Supported by the European Union’s Erasmus+ programme, the Invitational Games will showcase competition in seven winter sports.

Special Olympics Europe Eurasia is thrilled to welcome athletes from across the world to Östersund and Åre for the Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games,” said David Evangelista, Special Olympics Europe Eurasia President and Managing Director.

“We can’t wait to see all the athletes in action and to watch our movement grow across Sweden and worldwide as more and more people discover the power of Special Olympics through these Games.”

The Games are being used by Special Olympics Sweden as a platform to grow and develop the competitive sport of snowshoeing. Snowshoeing is quickly becoming a favourite for outdoor winter activity. Combining aerobic activity with ease of walking over snow without sinking in, snowshoeing is an activity for all ages. Snowshoe races are part of the Arctic Winter Games and the winter Special Olympics.

“Snowshoe running is something that we’ve been particularly highlighting,” Gerda Nilsson Tjernström, Games Manager for the Invitational Games, said. “It’s an easy sport that allows us to reach out and engage more athletes, encouraging them to get involved in Special Olympics Sweden.”

Besides the competition, many other important events are set to take place in the Östersund region. Youth leaders from nine countries will attend the European Youth Leadership Summit to engage in cross-cultural exchange and receive leadership training to continue the inclusion movement.

The athletes will also have the opportunity to take part in the Special Olympics Healthy Athletes® , made possible by the Golisano Foundation. Organised in cooperation with the Mid Sweden University for the Invitational Games, the programme provides health screenings in seven disciplines for Special Olympics athletes.

People with intellectual disabilities often experience poorer quality and diminished access to health services. One of the main objectives of the Sweden Invitational Games is to promote better health for people with intellectual disabilities and to encourage them to get involved in sports clubs.

For now, all eyes are on the Special Olympics Sweden Invitational Games Opening Ceremony which will gather athletes, coaches, volunteers, supporters and partners together for an evening of entertainment and inspiration. It will take place on 1 February 2020 and is free and open to any individual ready and willing to celebrate the power of inclusion!