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WDSF, Special Olympics Forging Fruitful Collaboration 23/07/2020

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“The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practising sport, without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play.” – The Olympic Charter

As a proud member of the Olympic Movement, the World DanceSport Federation (WDSF) works daily to ensure that access to our sport remains barrier-free and inclusive to all.

With this goal in mind, we warmly welcomed the signing of a cooperation agreement in March 2019 with Special Olympics International (SOI), which led to the official recognition of DanceSport as a discipline within the Special Olympics.

The agreement was signed by WDSF Vice-President for Development Antoni Czyzyk and Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davies with the aim of developing DanceSport in Special Olympics structures and including dance as an official sport at the Special Olympics World Games.

“Our two main goals currently are to include DanceSport as a discipline in the next Special Olympics World Games and to increase awareness through all WDSF and SOI Members that we are working together and are offering DanceSport for people with intellectual differences,” says Czyzyk, adding that work between the two organisations is progressing well in a number of important areas.

Talks are under way to determine when DanceSport will make its full Special Olympics debut, and the DanceSport community will be notified as soon as a decision is made. The next winter edition of the Special Olympics World Games is scheduled for 22-28 January 2022 in Kazan, Russia, while the next summer edition is slated for 16-25 June 2023 in the German capital.

Another joint project being undertaken is the development of a “World Championship Special Olympics DanceSport,” the first edition of which is set to take place in August 2021 in Graz, Austria. Although Czyzyk admits that the COVID-19 pandemic has slowed progress in this area, the event is still on the calendar and he is optimistic that it will go ahead as planned.

Away from the dancefloor, the WDSF and SOI are also making headway. In cooperation with Dr. Pierre Gider, Chair of DanceSport in the Special Olympics Resources Team, the focus has been on developing documents that will facilitate trainers and instructors working with athletes interested in participating in DanceSport at the Special Olympics World Games, and developing adjudicating rules and a system that will allow for fair assessment of athletes presenting different styles and types of dance.

“In the nearest future we have planned the development and alignment of existing Special Olympics DanceSport (SODS) rulebooks according to existing WDSF rules, and development of a coaching guide for SODS as well as modifications for WDSF coaches and a suggested handbook,” Czyzyk says. “We plan to establish a team that will include representatives from the SOI, WDSF and academic staff. We are aware that these publications are necessary before considering further development of DanceSport in Special Olympics structures.”

One of the biggest setbacks due to COVID-19 for Czyzyk personally was the cancellation in his home country of Poland of the 1st International Congress for trainers, instructors and adjudicators who want to develop Special Olympics DanceSport. The congress was scheduled, along with a Special Olympics DanceSport show competition, to coincide with the WDSF World Championship Disco Dance in Elblag, Poland this June.

“I must admit that I was very disappointed with the necessity to cancel both the WDSF World Championship Disco Dance in Elblag, which was to be the first such event in Poland organised under the auspices of the WDSF, and the first international congress for trainers, instructors and adjudicators,” he says. “We had already started preliminary talks not only with the SOI  through Pierre Gider, but also with the SOI branches in Poland and Europe. Everyone was very enthusiastic about this initiative, we had planned the training program, and indicated potential experts to conduct lectures and workshops.”

Having regrouped in May to discuss the action plan for the months ahead, the two organisations considered rescheduling the congress to a date in the fall. But as travel and other social-distancing restrictions continue to differ from country to country, it remains difficult to even consider a new date at present.

“At the moment, we are left to observe the current situation and wait for a full international opening that will allow us to safely carry out this activity,” says Czyzyk. “It is difficult to make binding decisions without knowing what awaits us in the fall. However, I hope that we will soon return to our normal functioning.”

It is a sentiment shared by all the dancers looking forward to participating officially in their first Special Olympics World Games. In the meantime, the WDSF will continue to work hand in hand with our partners at SOI to ensure that everyone has the access and opportunity to practice the sport we love so much.

About Special Olympics

Founded in 1968, Special Olympics is a global movement to end discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities. It fosters acceptance of all people through the power of sport and programming in education, health, and leadership. With more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in over 190 countries and territories and more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers more than 30 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions every year. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.