The Aga Khan Social Welfare Board (AKSWB) for Central Region and the Aga Khan Youth and Sports Board (AKYSB), in collaboration with Special Olympics Pakistan (SOP), organised an “Elderly and Differently-abled Olympics 2019” over the course of two days at the Punjab National Stadium in Lahore. The event aimed to provide a platform for elderly and differently-abled individuals to participate in sports, recreation, leisure and social activities. This event created an inclusive environment as well as the awareness of the importance of sports for a healthy lifestyle. Furthermore, it helped enhance participant’s skills for inclusion in mainstream activities at multiple levels.

The first day commenced with Body-Mass Index (BMI) screening of the athletes before departing for the stadium. A torch ceremony to signify the initiation of the Olympic games was held which was attended by local, regional and institutional leadership. AKYSB conducted both indoor and outdoor games in different categories for elderly and differently-abled adolescents such as sprints, walks, spoon races, table tennis, carrom board, etc. After an exuberant day, a cultural night for the athletes was hosted by the Lahore local council at the community centre where SOP notables and local and regional leadership attended. All attendees enjoyed the music, dancing and singing performances by specially-abled members and senior citizens. Appreciation letters and certificates were also awarded to the participants.

The next day, SOP conducted all outdoor games including sprint races and football for differently-abled adolescents. Afterwards, indoor games were conducted in the gymnasium including badminton. The closing ceremony began in the early afternoon with the recitation of verses from the Holy Quran followed by the Ismaili and SOP anthems of Pakistan. The ceremony was graced by President, Ismaili Council for Central Region, Chairman AKYSBP, Vice President SOP, and other notables. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between AKSWB Central Region and SOP for a six-month activity calendar for differently-abled children in order to guide them towards participation at the international Olympics. Conclusively, guests of honour and chief guests shared their views and distributed certificates, medals and shields amidst the winners.

The event brought happiness and delight to all participants and their families while creating a sense of inclusion between the participants and the community. A mother from Rawalpindi with a differently-abled son expressed her views quoting, “These are healthy events where special children feel secure and empowered, otherwise they tend to get neglected. Even parents feel reluctant to discuss their differently-abled sons and daughters. Consequently, the children become side-lined. Such events should continue in the future and must be conducted more frequently at the local and/or regional level. Through such events, as I believe, parents will not only get encouragement to help improve their children’s outlook but also overcome their own hesitation.”

Fostering an embracive environment through sports, recreation, leisure and social activities for elderly and differently-abled individuals, the event not only created an understanding of brotherhood between participants, it also encouraged inclusivity amongst different communities. The key theme highlighted at the Elderly and Differently-Abled Olympics 2019 was the importance of sports for a healthy lifestyle. This, in turn, constructed a path to enhance participant’s skills for inclusion in mainstream activities at the institutional and international level.