Think global, act local: INAS Global Games to leave an indelible mark on Brisbane
Elite athletes from 50 nations will converge on Brisbane for INAS Global Games 2019, an event that will leave a substantial legacy.
Launched in 2004 and held every four years since then, the INAS Global Games is a world-class event for athletes with intellectual impairments. Many athletes who have made their debut at the Global Games have later gone on to win Paralympic gold medals.
Australia has topped the medal tally at all but one of the previous events, but this is the first time the event will be held in an Australian city.
Sport Inclusion Australia CEO Robyn Smith says the INAS Global Games offer an opportunity for athletes with intellectual impairments to be celebrated for what they can do, not what they can’t do.
“I feel very strongly that the Global Games are about celebrating sporting excellence, not about patronising people with an intellectual impairment,” Smith says. “We don’t want people feeling sorry for anyone. Not everyone wins a medal. The word ‘disability’ isn’t used in relation to the Games at all, and there’s a reason for that — that’s not the focus of the event. The focus is on competition, and these athletes are the best of the best.”
Over 1,000 athletes and 500 volunteers and officials are expected to attend the Games, which will feature 10 sports (athletics, basketball, cycling, futsal, rowing, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis and cricket) and two demonstration sports (netball and Australian rules football) at various venues around Brisbane, including the Queensland Sports and Athletics Centre, Queensland State Netball Centre, Queensland Tennis Centre, Sleeman Sports Complex, Hibiscus Stadium and Brisbane Table Tennis Centre.
The Sport Summit, a two-day summit featuring keynote addresses and workshops from key influencers in the world of inclusion for up to 250 attendees, will be staged in collaboration with the INAS Global Games at Suncorp Stadium.
“The Sport Summit addresses the science of sport, the inclusion of sport, the humanity of sport and the economy of sport,” Smith says. “I can’t believe the quality of the speakers we have coming. I’m particularly excited to hear from Catherine Carty, who’s currently chairing a UNESCO project on the power of sport to deliver amazing outcomes for isolated groups, including people with intellectual impairments.
“We know that athletes with an intellectual impairment don’t always achieve at school, and they can struggle to find jobs and points of connection with the community. We also know that in many countries, the problems faced by people with intellectual impairments aren’t seen as a priority. They wither away and their lives aren’t valued. The United Nations can take a much larger role in helping to connect people with their community through sport, so I’m excited to hear what Catherine has to say and find out how we can help.”
In preparation for the arrival of the INAS Global Games, Brisbane City Council has prepared an Easy Read guide to the city for athletes with intellectual impairments. The information in the guide is intended to be as easily digestible as possible, with pictures used alongside text to explain some ideas and important words bolded for emphasis.
As well as containing important details about the Global Games, the Easy Read guide highlights things for the competitors to see and do while they’re in Brisbane. This content is likely to be repurposed after the event to provide an Easy Read guide for all visitors to Brisbane with intellectual impairments to enjoy in the future.
HELP Enterprises have also been engaged to provide inclusivity training for Brisbane City Council and Brisbane Economic Development Agency employees, as well as Brisbane Greeters and Visitor Information Centre volunteers, in order to ensure visitors with intellectual impairments receive a warm welcome when they arrive for the INAS Global Games.
Robyn Smith says initiatives like the Easy Read guide and the inclusivity training will have a positive impact on Brisbane that goes well beyond this year’s INAS Global Games.
“The INAS Global Games can change communities,” Smith says. “Hosting an event like this helps people realise that ‘accessibility’ isn’t just about ramps. It’s about making people feel valued and respected. Making someone with an intellectual impairment feel comfortable invariably comes down to communication — if you take a more caring approach to communication, it’s going to help the people attending this event, and it’s going to help everyone with an intellectual impairment who visits Brisbane in the future.
“It’s also a great opportunity to showcase Brisbane to influential visitors from the international sporting community. Andrew Parsons, the President of the International Paralympic Committee and a member of the International Olympic Committee, will be here, as well as a number of Paralympic Committee members from around the world — they’ll be enjoying Brisbane’s beautiful weather and beautiful people at a fully fledged international meet held at wonderful venues.
“They’ll see the effort that Brisbane has gone to for this event, and it might help them to remember Brisbane in the future. You never know — hosting the Global Games in 2019 could actually leave a legacy that leads to a much bigger event in 2032…”
The INAS Global Games will be held in Brisbane from October 12-19. The Sport Summit will be held at Suncorp Stadium from October 10-11. For more information, visit www.gg2019.org.