The Special Olympics have announced they have canceled their World Winter Games as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Games were due to be held in Kazan, Russia, in January 2023 but organizers said in a statement they can no longer ensure the safety of athletes and the community.
« The horrific violence in Ukraine, the extensive sanctions implemented by the international community, and the uncertainty and fear being experienced around the world make it impossible to proceed. We are devastated by the fear and destruction being experienced by our athletes and community in Ukraine.
« Persons with an intellectual disability are suffering disproportionately, unfairly, and tragically in this war, as they have during the pandemic. We join our voices to millions around the world demanding peace and an end to violence immediately. »
The Special Olympics was due to see over 2,000 athletes and unified partners at the games, with the last winter games taking place in Austria in 2017, and summer games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
The statement added: « This cancellation is devastating to us, to our athletes in Ukraine, to our athletes in Russia, and to our athletes around the world who have trained for years to compete.
« We are grateful to people of good will within Russia and around the world who worked for years to make these Games a success and while the Games will not take place, we commit ourselves to continue working with the Special Olympics Program there now and in the future. »
ESPN is the worldwide broadcaster of the Special Olympics.