Your Excellency Madam President,
Minister Edwin Tong,
President of Special Olympics Singapore Dr Teo-Koh Sock Miang,
Families and Friends,
I am humbled and thrilled to be here today. As a diplomat, you get to speak on many grand occasions, and a lot of them are recurring. But today’s flag presentation ceremony is a first for me.
It is also the first time that the Special Olympics World Games are taking place in Germany, which makes this moment even more special.
By supporting the 2023 World Games, the German Federal Government has committed itself to build bridges not only within, but also between our countries.
More than 200 towns in Germany are hosting Special Olympics delegations from across the globe, thus not only making it the largest communal inclusion project in German history, but also bringing the world together in Germany.
By enabling people-to-people encounters, building mutual understanding, trust and friendship, the games gift us with the most valuable good we have in international relations. And when I see everyone’s anticipation today, I sure expect it will be a great party!
Ladies and gentlemen,
having the games in Berlin this year is more than timely. Just two months ago, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock launched the Guidelines on Feminist Foreign Policy.
One might think that she had just equality of men and women in mind. But let me quote:
“Feminist foreign policy is not foreign policy for women, but for all members of a society. It is inclusive rather than exclusive. It […] stands up for everyone who is pushed to societies’ margins because of their gender identity, origin, religion, age, disability or sexual orientation or for other reasons.”
While this might sound abstract, it actually calls to very concrete action. The basic idea is that equality and inclusion need to be made visible every day and everywhere. It is our mutual responsibility to give all groups of society a voice, an active role, and draw them from the margins to the centre of societies.
The bidding process of Special Olympics is the best example: Already in preparing the bid for Berlin to host this year’s World Games, thousands of athletes in Germany were invited to jointly shape the design of the bid.
I have the utmost respect for all the volunteers and supporters of Special Olympics who dedicate their efforts to building a more inclusive society every day:
By supporting athletes with intellectual disabilities from a young age, you bring visibility to a group whose needs are oftentimes not immediately recognizable; thus being probably the most easily marginalised group. By highlighting their achievements, you contribute to removing reservations and prejudices, and to fostering unity.
The games will be a unique time for all the athletes to rise and shine. But let us not forget: It is not up to the athlete, or any person with special needs, to prove themselves valuable members of society and integrate themselves. It is up to all of us.
Beyond any doubt, sports have the power to build strength, new abilities, and self-confidence.
But let me also quote Sportscaster Heywood Hale Brown: “Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” In this sense, the achievements of Special Olympics athletes only reveal what they already are: Brave, enthusiastic and highly capable personalities, and role models for us all.
With this, I would like to wish all of you, athletes, coaches and teammates, a splendid and safe trip, a wonderful time and great success in the games. We are honoured to have you in Germany.
(14 May 2023, SportSG Auditorium)