Sports for All – fostering inclusion of persons with disabilities

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‘Sport for All’ seminar, fo stering inclusion of people with disabilities, was held at the National Olympic and Paralympic Academy of Iran on Monday, 16 December 2019.

The one-day seminar, held under the auspices of UNESCO, was co-organized by UNESCO Tehran Office, Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Iran Autism Association, National Olympic and Paralympic Academy of Iran and Faculty of Sport and Physical Education of Tehran University. The event was attended by Abdul Hamid Ahmadi, Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth, Dr. Hojatollah Ayoubi, Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, Dr. Limoochi – vice President for women – National Paralympic Committee of I.R., Mr. Cvetan Cvetkovski – Officer-in-Charge, UNESCO Tehran Cluster Office, Mr. Soleimani, representative of Tehran Municipality’s Sport sector, Mrs. Saeideh Saleh Ghafari, Managing-Director of Iran Autism Association, Dr. Samaneh Zamani, Head of the Social and Human Sciences department of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO and a number of other officials.

Abdul-Hamid Ahmadi, Deputy Minister of Sport and Youth, said: “I hope that this conference will contribute to the development of sports in all sectors and all groups of society, especially persons with disabilities.  According to official statistics, 57 percent of the population is suffering from inactivity which is a leading cause of some disease. In a recent report by the Ministry of Health, three percent of the Iran GDP-45000 billion Toman- is spent on the treatment of non-communicable disease.”

He added: “sport is the best way to deal with diseases. Promotion of sport is a necessity and we have to focus on public sport. Good measures have been taken and many institutions are cooperating in developing public sport.  We have also made efforts to develop rural sports and equip the rural sport centers.”

Ahmadi said: “people with disabilities have to participate in physical exercises. Recently, the badge of honor of the International Paralympic Committee was awarded to Iran. Of course we still need to continue our work by cooperation of other institutions. To meet the needs of 80 million people by sport, we need to cooperate with other organizations. ”

Dr. Hojatollah Ayoubi, Secretary-General of the Iranian National Commission for UNESCO, said:  “measures should be taken to provide and develop the infrastructures needed for the sport and physical exercise of the disabled. Fortunately, in our country, sport occupies a particularly important place, although we need to pay more attention to sport for persons with disabilities.”

He continued: “unfortunately in a large city such as Tehran, we do not have the necessary infrastructures for sport and physical exercise of the disabled. A large group of our population is getting old, but we have not provided the required infrastructures for the physical exercise of this group in Tehran.  In this regard, special attention must be paid to the development of infrastructures for the physical exercise of the persons with special need.”

Dr. Sima Limoochi , vice President for women- National Paralympic Committee of I.R. Iran said : “the latest statistics of the World Health Organization shows that 15 percent of the world’s population lives with some form of disability.  People with disabilities are more likely to be sedentary than healthy people and in this regard, the annual observance of the International Day of Persons with Disabilities was proclaimed in 1992 by the United Nations General Assembly to call special attention to this issue. ”

She added: “in Iran, good measures have been taken by the Paralympic Committee since 2003 and we have National Paralympic Day in Iran and our country is a model for the world. We have set the ground for development of public sport for the disabled and have made measures to promote disabled sports at competitive international levels. Elahe Qoli Fallah, Zahra Nemati and Siymand Rahman are prominent Iranian Paralympic athletes.”

Cvetan Cvetkovski, the officer in charge of the UNESCO office in Tehran, highlighted the important role played by sport in the development of people with disabilities.

“I would like to express my sincere appreciation to the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Academy of Iran, the Municipality of Iran, the Iranian Federation of Sport for All, the Iran Sports Federation for the disabled and the University of Tehran. Without your cordial help this seminar would not be possible,” Cvetkovski said.

“I would like to thank all the sportswomen and sportsmen who are here. It is you who are the real heroines and heroes of the event. This event is not only a one-day occasion but also a life lesson. To be here with you reminds us of one of the principal lessons in life – to always march on smiling no matter what obstacles are lying in our way,” added Cvetkovski.

“I would like to start by expressing my sincere appreciation to the National Olympic and Paralympic Committees and Academy, the Municipality of Tehran, the Iranian Federation of Sports for All, the Iran Sports Federation for the Disabled, and the University of Tehran. Your cooperation and contribution to this event are highly appreciated. Without your cordial help, the success of this activity would not become possible,” Cvetkovski said.

“Lastly but also most importantly, I would like to sincerely thank all the athletes, sportswomen and sportsmen present here. It is you who are the real heroines and heroes of the event. In a sense, the event is not only a one-day occasion, but also a life lesson. To be with you here reminds us one of the most principal lessons in life, and that is always to march on smiling no matter what obstacles are lying there in our way. You help us understand more profoundly than ever the great value of sports for stimulating the vitality of human kind. I feel truly inspired by your optimism and determination,” he added.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the Government of Iran for the hard work they have done in promotion of sports and physical education for persons with disabilities. Iran has positioned itself as a regional model in fostering inclusion of people with disabilities through sports and physical education. This has brought along true benefits in their physical and mental health and their everyday life and activities.

“In addition, the hard work developed by the national authorities has been considered as best practice by the International Paralympic Committee and it is also well reflected in the successful results that Iranian athletes obtain in all Paralympic competitions. As Nelson Mandela once famously said, “Sports has the power to change the world”. And in fact, we need that power today more than ever before, to strengthen the grounds for more inclusive, healthy and peaceful societies,” Cvetkovski stated.

Mrs. Saeideh Saleh Ghaffari, managing director of Iran Autism Association, referred to the activities implemented by the Autism Association to promote sport for autistic people.

Mr, Soleimani, representative of the municipality’s sport sector, pointed to the plans implemented by the municipality of Tehran in the field of sport for the disabled.

In the one-day event, national anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran was performed by the vocal group of Autism Association. After the opening ceremony, some expert panels were held by Dr. Shokouhi and Dr. Mahmoud Khani, representatives of the National Paralympics Committee, Dr. Shajie, representative of the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Mehdi Jalalian, representative of Iran Autism Association, Kaveh Sadeghi and Elahe Qoli Fallah, representative of Skating Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Dr. Rajabi, representative of the Faculty of Sport and Physical Education-University of Tehran.

At the end, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between Iran Autism Association, the Skating Federation and Iran Sport for all Federation, and the tableau of “ Skate: Autism Inhibitor ”  was unveiled.