A Concise Guide to the Special Olympics World Games 2023

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Posted: May 26, 2023

Updated: May 26, 2023

For the first time in over 50 years, Berlin will be the sporting centre of the world. The Special Olympics World Games 2023 will take place in over 15 different venues around the city. For those looking to go, we've compiled a guide covering everything from ticket prices to the best hotels. With the competition lasting 9 days, there's certainly time to get to know the city of Berlin better.

The 16th edition of the Special Olympics, known as the Special Olympics World Games 2023 (German: Special Olympics Weltspiele 2023), will take place in Berlin, Germany. This historic event marks Germany’s first time hosting the Special Olympics World Games 2023. Spanning eight days, from June 17th to June 25th, 2023, the games will bring together approximately 7,000 athletes and Unified partners from around 170 countries. A total of 3,000 coaches and 20,000 volunteers will also participate.

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Berlin Welcomes Athletes for the Special Olympics World Games 2023

This momentous occasion will make Germany the host of the World Games for the very first time. As the largest sporting event since the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, the Special Olympics World Game 2023 will attract athletes and delegations from 190 countries. Over the course of nine days, both international visitors and Berlin residents will witness and be captivated by a wide array of emotional competitions taking place throughout the city.

In addition to the sporting events, the World Games will feature a vibrant program encompassing culture, education, and health initiatives. This comprehensive approach aims to make social participation visible and tangible for everyone involved.

What are the Special Olympics?

The Special Olympics, similar to the Paralympics, is officially recognized by the International Olympic Committee. However, unlike the Paralympics, the Special Olympics events are not held in conjunction with the Olympics. Special Olympics competitions are organized daily throughout the world, ranging from local to national and international events. Individuals with intellectual and physical disabilities receive year-round training opportunities.

The Special Olympics World Games 2023 occur on a rotating basis, alternating between summer and winter games every two years. This means that both the Summer Special Olympics World Games and Winter Special Olympics World Games take place every four years. The torch carried and lit during these games is called the “FLAME OF HOPE.” Special Olympics encompasses over 30 Olympic-type individual and team sports.

How to Qualify

Special Olympics programs are offered to athletes free of charge. Presently, there are more than 5.7 million enrolled athletes worldwide in Special Olympics. Research has demonstrated the benefits of sports and physical activities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. As a result, the organization encourages individuals with intellectual disabilities to receive training and participate in various Special Olympics programs. To take part in the Special Games, athletes must be at least 8 years old and provide certification of their intellectual disability or cognitive delays.

Special Olympics World Games 2023 Youth Program

The Special Olympics Young Athlete Program is specifically designed for children between the ages of 2 and 7. Within this program, children, both with and without disabilities, are trained together. For children with intellectual disabilities, the program focuses on developing socialization skills, while children without disabilities learn the valuable lesson of inclusiveness at a young age through this special program.

In these games, winners are recognized with gold, silver, and bronze medals for first, second, and third places, respectively. Athletes who secure positions from fourth to eighth are awarded participation ribbons as a symbol of their involvement.

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Unified Sports

The Special Olympics committee has introduced a new concept called Unified Sports. This initiative involves training and promoting athletes, both with and without disabilities, to play as teammates. The underlying motto behind this concept is to foster mutual trust and respect, ultimately paving the way for understanding and friendship.

Special Olympics World Games 2023 Numbers at a Glance

  • 7,000 athletes
  • 26 sports
  • 190 delegations
  • 20,000 volunteers
  • 9 days full of sports and emotions

What’s the Difference between Special Olympics and Paralympics?

Special Olympics and the Paralympic Games are distinct organizations recognized by the International Olympic Committee.

Both organizations are non-profit and aimed at supporting athletes with disabilities. The key differences between these two games are as follows:

Organizational Structure

Special Olympics and the Paralympic Games operate as separate entities, each with its own governing body and organizational structure.

Participation Criteria and Philosophy

The criteria and philosophy under which athletes participate differ between the two games. Special Olympics is open to intellectually impaired athletes who possess general learning and adaptive skill defects. They are eligible to train and compete in 30 different Olympic-style sports.

Examples of such functional defects include developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and cognitive delays. The Paralympic Games, on the other hand, encompass a broader range of disabilities, including physical, visual, and intellectual impairments. Athletes in the Paralympics are classified based on their specific impairment.

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Classification of Athletes

Special Olympics classifies athletes based on their intellectual disability or cognitive delay. In contrast, the Paralympic Games employ a classification system that categorizes athletes according to their specific impairment, ensuring fair competition within each class.

Torch Run

The Torch Run is a time-honored tradition associated with the Special Olympics World Games 2023, creating a wave of anticipation for the upcoming event. The Special Olympics Flame of Hope™ will be ignited on June 7th in Athens, Greece, and will embark on a remarkable journey through Germany, culminating in a grand arrival at the Opening Ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games 2023.

Special Olympics World Games 2023 Sports Program

https://assets.berlin2023.org/9c/f5/b94871db44afb0c5b55564300408/221214-schedule-overview-b23-eng-no-training-rgb.pdf

The Opening Ceremony

  • When: 17 June 2023
  • Gates open: at 18:00
  • Ceremony: 20:15 – 22:45
  • Where: Olympic Stadium, Berlin
  • Location: Friedrich-Friesen-Allee, 14053 Berlin District Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf 
  • Public transport: U-Bahn Olympia-Stadion, S-Bahn Olympiastadion and S-Bahn Pichelsberg

The Olympiapark Berlin stands as a significant sporting complex in 20th-century Europe. Situated in the western part of the city, its focal point is the renowned Olympiastadion, originally constructed for the 1936 Olympic Games.

The grounds also encompass the Maifeld, originally intended as a parade ground, along with stadiums for swimming, field hockey, and equestrian events. The entirety of Olympiapark serves as a reminder of how the Olympic Games can be put to use for propagandistic purposes by those in political power. This is clear from the meticulously planned architectural language of its buildings.

Presently, the Olympiastadion stands as one of the world’s most modern stadiums. The Olympiapark itself remains actively utilized by Berlin sports associations and clubs. The grounds, featuring open spaces and green areas, are accessible to all. Visitors have the opportunity to explore the Olympiastadion by purchasing an entrance ticket.

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Special Olympics World Games 2023 Ticket Sales

 https://www.berlin2023.org/en/visit-the-games/tickets

Special Olympics World Games 2023 Opening Ceremony tickets are available in block format. When purchasing a ticket, you select a specific block and choose a seat within that area. Reserved blocks are indicated in grey and are designated for families and guests of the athletes. Additional tickets will be released closer to the games. To gain a better understanding of the grandstands, you can take a virtual 360° tour of the stadium.

Currently, wheelchair seats are sold out. Once available seats become open again, they will be immediately released in the webshop. If you have specific accessibility requirements regarding seating, please consult the FAQs or get in touch with our team for assistance.

Ticket prices range from €10 to €35, inclusive of system fees.

For packages, the Closing Ceremony is already sold out. However, all packages available on the webshop include one ticket for the Opening Ceremony and an “All Competitions” pass.

The “All Competitions Pass” allows you to support our athletes throughout the event and attend the games on multiple days. This pass is recommended for a visit spanning four days or more, granting access to all venues from June 18th to June 25th. It’s important to note that this ticket does not grant access to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, the Athletes’ Party, or any non-public sports competitions.

Sports

                            Aquatics

                 Open water swimming 

                         Swimming 

         Gymnastics

   Artistic gymnastics 

  Rhythmic gymnastics

Athletics

Judo

Badminton

Handball

Basketball

Kayaking

Boccia 

Powerlifting

Bowling

Roller skating

Cycling

Sailing

Equestrian

Table tennis

Football 

Tennis

Golf 

Volleyball

The Special Olympics World Games 2023 Festival 

The Spectacular Special Olympics Festival offers an extraordinary and all-encompassing experience for sports and culture enthusiasts alike. This vibrant event features a diverse stage program, interactive activities, and a range of sporting events, welcoming participants, visitors, and Berlin locals alike. With various locations spread throughout the city, the festival seamlessly blends the realms of sports and culture. Prepare to be enthralled by an inclusive stage program featuring music, shows, dance performances, and much more.

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Betting on the Special Olympics World Games 2023

Due to the unique nature of the Special Olympics, which emphasizes participation rather than traditional competition, there is no betting involved in the event. However, websites like 22Bet Sportsbooks are available to accept bets and provide odds for the regular Olympics in 2024. For those punters who are traveling to Berlin and want to enjoy evenings at the casinos, there are plenty of choices offering exciting games in a great atmosphere. 

Top Accommodations in Berlin for Special Olympics Fans

The prices mentioned below are for a double room shared by two persons from June 16th to June 27th.

Ballhaus Berlin Hostel 

€732

www.booking.com/hotel/de/ballhaus-berlinhostel.en-gb.html

Located in the heart of Berlin’s Mitte district, Ballhaus Berlin Hostel occupies a distinctive and historically significant red-brick building. The hostel is surrounded by numerous attractions, museums, and theaters. The building itself is home to Berlin’s oldest ballroom and the traditional Alt-Berlin pub. Each dormitory within the hostel has its own unique decoration, representing various themes from the glamorous 1920s to the upcoming 2020s. All dormitories feature lockers and offer access to shared bathroom facilities.

Ballhaus Berlin Hostel boasts a convenient location, with the Natural History Museum and Berlin Wall Memorial just around the corner. The Naturkundemuseum Underground Station is a mere 2-minute walk away, providing easy access to Alexanderplatz with its shopping opportunities, the iconic Brandenburg Gate, and the UNESCO Museum Island. The vibrant club and party districts of Friedrichshain and Kreuzberg are within 30 minutes walk.

Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre Alexanderplatz 

€2,487

https://www.booking.com/hotel/de/hampton-by-hilton-berlin-city-centre-alexanderplatz.en-gb.html

At Hampton by Hilton Berlin City Centre Alexanderplatz, you’ll find contemporary-style rooms designed for comfort. Each room comes with a high-quality own-brand bed and features a 40-inch flat-screen TV. Additionally, there is a spacious desk, tea/coffee facilities, and a private bathroom in every room. Start your day with a satisfying hot breakfast that includes options like eggs, baked beans, waffles, fruit, and more. Numerous cafes and restaurants can also be found in the surrounding area.

The hotel provides a business center where guests can make use of a computer with free WiFi. Fax and photocopy services are available as well. Thanks to the nearby train station, excellent access to public transportation throughout Berlin via trains, underground, buses, and trams is easily attainable. For those arriving by car, parking facilities are available at the hotel with a daily surcharge.

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B&B Hotel Berlin-Tiergarten 

€1,783

https://www.booking.com/hotel/de/b-amp-b-berlin-tiergarten.en-gb.html

Situated in Berlin’s Tiergarten district, B&B Hotel Berlin-Tiergarten is conveniently located just 1 km away from the renowned Victory Column and Berlin Zoo. The hotel offers complimentary WiFi and operates a 24-hour reception. The rooms at B&B Hotel Berlin-Tiergarten feature a flat-screen TV with Sky channels, as well as amenities like air conditioning and soundproofed windows.

Start your day with a delightful and plentiful breakfast buffet available at an additional charge. The hotel’s proximity to attractions such as the Kurfürstendamm Boulevard (1.7 km) and the Brandenburg Gate (3.1 km) makes it a great base for exploring the city. The Tiergarten S-Bahn (city rail) Station, only 300 m away, provides convenient connections to Alexanderplatz and the Berlin Trade Fair, both located just 5 km away.

Special Olympics World Games 2023 – Things to Do in Berlin

Brandenburg Gate

Once a symbol of a divided city, the Brandenburg Gate now stands as a powerful emblem of unity and peace. This iconic landmark bears witness to the harsh political divisions that once plagued Berlin during the Cold War. However, in November 1989, with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the gate transformed into a symbol of peace, bringing together the two parts of the city.

Today, the Brandenburg Gate is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Berlin. It serves as a reminder of significant historical events and showcases the resilience of the city. Visitors can witness how people now gather with friends and families to spend time in an area that was once strictly off-limits. It’s a place where people look back at the scars of the past with a gentle smile, reflecting Berlin’s ability to move forward while acknowledging its history.

Charlottenburg Palace Gardens

In addition to Berlin’s meticulously preserved remnants of the past, the city is also home to some of the most enchanting parks, which rank among Berlin’s top attractions. One such gem is the Charlottenburg Palace Gardens, the first baroque garden in Germany.

Dating back to 1695, it stands as one of the oldest gardens in the city. The garden boasts a picturesque carp pond, expansive lawns adorned with neatly trimmed plants and trees in box shapes, and gravel pathways with a tricolor motif. While the garden provides an idyllic setting for family outings, the palace itself is a breathtaking architectural marvel that captivates tourists. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most sought-after historical sites to explore in Berlin.

  • Entry Fee: Free
  • Opening Hours: 8:00 am until dusk

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Treptower Park

Now let’s take a moment to venture to the quiet banks of the Spree River, within the busy energy of the city. Treptower Park gracefully sits by the river, offering an ideal escape for activities like boating, jogging, leisurely strolls, or simply basking in the serene ambiance.

Berlin Cathedral

Situated on Museum Island, the Berlin Cathedral is a prominent attraction in Berlin. Originally constructed as a parish church in 1465 along the banks of the Spree River, it stands as one of the oldest architectural marvels. Witnessing the ebb and flow of empires, its construction continued until 1903, only to be reopened in 1993 after the German Democratic Republic era.

The cathedral houses over ninety sarcophagi and tombs, showcasing significant political and religious moments depicted in mosaic form.

Furthermore, its magnificent dome houses an organ with more than 7,000 pipes, ranking among Germany’s largest. For those visiting Germany, the Berlin Cathedral is a must-see destination of exquisite beauty.

  • Admission fee: €4
  • Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday: 9:20 AM | Sunday & Public Holidays: 12:20 PM

Academy of Arts

Founded in 1697 by King Frederick, the Prussian Academy of Arts, now known as the Academy of Arts, holds a significant place in Berlin, Germany. In 1902, it came under the ownership of the Prussian treasury, leading to its renaming.

This architectural gem has undergone several political transformations, surviving the bombs of World War II and division into Western and Eastern branches during the Cold War. Despite these challenges, it stands today, showing off the rich art and cultural evidence it has preserved for centuries. The Academy of Arts is among the top destinations to explore in Berlin, Germany.

  • Admission fee: Dependent on the exhibition
  • Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday: 10 AM to 8 PM

Other Sporting Events in June 2023

June’s a busy month on the sporting calendar. For a start, there’s the Stanley Cup in Canada, with the final taking place on June 3rd. For golfing fans, the US Open takes place between the 12th and 18th of the month. The UEFA Europa League Final is taking place in the Puskás Aréna, Budapest on May 31st. Finally, the UEFA European Football Championship Final will kick off in Istanbul on 10th June between Sevilla and Roma.

For more information about the Special Olympics World Games 2023 in Berlin, you can visit the official website at https://www.berlin2023.org/en.

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