|Ognen Stamatoski, national manager of the Special Olympics – Macedonia|
We implement active socialization and integration through sports activities
How do you describe the present position and function of the Special Olympics – Macedonia?
I am afraid that it is almost impossible briefly to describe the present position and function of the SO Macedonia. For such my/our attitude there are many reasons of program character (choices, efforts, objectives, mission and philosophy of Olympics, more precisely the Special Olympics), through everything surrounding us (deposited dogmas, barriers, level of awareness, rooted mentality and negative relation – “blindness” to handicap, in general, the condition with humanity and philanthropy in our areas), the aspects of administrative-technical and operational conditions and problems that we face on daily basis (bureaucracy, inflexibility, lack of appropriate legal regulation, lack of constant assets and funds etc.), which directly affect planning, organization and realization of planned program efforts.
In all these areas the Special Olympics – Macedonia has made big steps directed to the good of those towards who our efforts are made, people with special needs, that is, people with intellectual disability and combined disability in development, and in the terminology of the Special Olympics globally accepted as athletes. It has not been easy to realize such complex program in our country; it is not easy to break down barriers, to “move mountains”, to affect change on a level of public awareness, to open citizens’ hearts and to accept the results and achievements of the people with special needs, with a few words, to accept them as equal citizens and inclusive part of our developing society.
In this direction, the position of the SO Macedonia is already on a satisfactory level that offers and provides daily/all year real service for meeting the needs of this, so called “marginalized” group of citizens.
With all that we realistically provide and realize on a level of the territory of the whole country, through the network of 25 clubs and membership of about 2.500 people, we manage to get closer to many people and to start a cycle of opening until then inaccessible horizons and active participation in realization of our citizens’ dreams.
All this puts the SO Macedonia in function of a real factor while making future perspectives related not only to our target group, but other people with invalidity (handicap) and a leader in articulating all issues related to them on a state level and wider. Our motives were persistent and so are our efforts.
Which state structures have shown openness and understanding in the so far process of the Olympics and where are the doors still closed or slightly opened?
Practically it is very easy to answer and the answer is very short: generally, there are not any appropriate structures that would treat our complex aspects and approaches in the realization of program efforts.
Part of the answer is in the abovementioned, related to mentality, dogmas and rooted rigidity of the structures that were supposed to deal with this group of people. In that direction is the conclusion about the very small help by the state, only through the Agency for Young and Sports of the Republic of Macedonia (in form of minimum funds) and the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Macedonia that gives us the army sports center in the Skopje park free for use.
Unfortunately, there is not any other systematic or institutional assistance.
Taking into consideration the fact that the Special Olympics Macedonia is registered in Macedonia according to the Law on citizens’ associations, which does not correspond with the actual contents and program of the so-called service organizations, as we are, a non-governmental, unprofitable and practically unprotected organization that has serious approach and relation towards this group of citizens, performing a real service that the state itself does not provide, we are “doomed” to function only on humane donations and non-commercial sponsorships. At the same time, if we add the fact that we perform an active service covered by different ministries and state institutions (sport, education, health, social policy, employment etc.), the support and assistance we should receive should come from all these places and I would even dare to say from the highest governmental level, as an active and realistic state partner!
We do not have all this and not only are the doors closed to our requests or they are not responded, or bureaucratic ping-pong is played, but to certain state bodies, institutions and individual, all that we do looks like “parallelism” and competition…which is certainly as consequence of their not realizing activities and functions which they have a mandate for.
A lot of things should be done in this area and doors should be completely open to us!
Which levels and in which countries have your Olympians competed in the last few years and what are the results?
Our special Olympians have competed in almost all possible levels, both in the country and abroad, achieving significant results and worthily representing the Republic of Macedonia. But what is more important than the achieved results is the implementation of basic program efforts – active socialization and integration through sports activities.
On national level recognizable system training, matches, mini-tournaments, big tournaments, regional events have already been created, even the complex national summer and winter games, which in different phases and periods cover all active, over 1.100 athletes in SO Macedonia.
Apart from all smaller or bigger matches, mini tournaments and similar events (there are really many of them), I will particularly point out the four held national football tournaments (2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006), two national basketball tournaments, (2004 and 2005), Athletics-football rally (Veles, 2005), participation in two diplomatic tournaments, as well as the held National Winter Games of SOM (2004) and two biggest and the most complex events – National Summer Games of SOM (2004 and 2005).
SO Macedonia has also taken active part in the biggest part of international events, that is, in events we had been qualified for and funds were provided.
The first official occasion where the internationals of SO Macedonia took part was the biggest world manifestation organized by the Special Olympics – the World Summer Special Olympic Games held in Dublin, Ireland in the summer 2003. After that our delegations took part in tournaments in Bosnia and Herzegovina (swimming, athletics, football and table tennis), Belgrade (football), Rodos, Greece (basketball), Luxemburg (football, men and women), Antalia, Turkey, (big football), Olomouc, the Czech Republic (athletics) and Belgrade again (basketball).
This summer, our delegation took part in the First National Summer Games of Serbia, held in Pirot, Serbia.
For this year our delegation that will take part in this year’s biggest European event organized by the Special Olympics, “The European Games of Youth”, taking place in Rome in 2006 has been planned, registered and applied, as well as at the European symposium whose main subject will be the handicap. Preparatory activities are in process for next year’s participation of our internationals at the next World Summer Special Olympic Games – Shanghai 2007.
However, as I have previously mentioned, apart from the achieved results in the area of sport, more significant to us are those achieved in socialization and integration, meeting other people from the country and abroad, broadening horizons, making friends (even long-lasting), as well as conveying acquired experience to others in the country and further motivation for active involvement in the projected program efforts, projects and activities.