Stefka Djobova, Ivelina Kirilova
National Sports Academy “Vassil Levski” (Bulgaria)
Abstract. There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has significantly affected the sport sector worldwide as well as sports calendar. Sports events have been cancelled or rescheduled like Summer Olympic and Paralympic games. The same had happened with the Special Olympics (SO) events. The pandemic constitutes a global challenge to the sport movements in terms of security and safety for all participants. Much more complicated it appears to secure the athletes with intellectual disabilities. Pandemic research has found that people with intellectual disabilities are almost six times more likely to die from COVID-19 than the general population. The SO programs organizers will face unknown so far issues in terms of security and safety.
Aim: The aim of the study is to explore the influence of new safety and security events protocols of Special Olympics on the mission and particularly on the athletes.
Methods: We applied documentary analysis including theoretical-logical analysis, systematic approach (structural-functional, structural-component and structural-integral aspect), comparative analysis, video analysis, field notes and focus group composed by participants in pervious SO World games (delegation leaders, coaches and parents).
Results: The results of our research shows that most of the national SO programs are reporting that the pandemic have a devastating impact on the athletes and the movement in general. The new live reality is affecting not only the daily routines of athletes with intellectual disabilities but also their social interaction in terms of communication and emotional functioning.
Conclusion: Having in mind that safety is first priority and applying all protocols, SO is attempting to preserve the mission, to ensure joy of sport and physical activity. In the new reality close contact and friendships are approached in a way to preserve them and to keep them as essential part of the events.
Keywords: COVID 19; safety; security; Special Olympics athletes; intellectual disabilities; sport