The EU assembly has called on the European Commission to support upcoming major Olympic Games in Warsaw and Athens for people with intellectual disabilities.
In a written declaration adopted on 24 April, the Parliament called the EU executive to support the the European Special Olympics Games in Warsaw in 2010 and the World Special Olympics Games in Athens in 2011.
Such support would follow EU funding for the 2003 World Summer Games in Ireland.
'Special Olympics Europe', the event organisers, welcomed the declaration as "a significant boost" in its bid to secure some €15 million of EU funding for "Europe's largest sport programme of year-round sports training and athletic competition for children and adults with an intellectual disability".
The Special Olympics movement in Europe "promotes inclusion and cross-border solidarity for people with intellectual disabilities" across the EU 27, said Mary Davis, the managing director of Special Olympics Europe/Eurasia.
The organisers said the €15 million would be split between the two Games. The Athens Games alone are expected to cost €86 million, of which the Greek government is committed to providing €25 million and the rest is to be raised through different funds, sponsorships and corporate donations.
The initiator of the Parliament declaration, Greek Socialist MEP Katerina Batzeli, referred to the support as "EU policy in action". Fellow Polish MEP Janusz Wojciechowski (UEN) described MEPs' support for the Games as "great news for people with an intellectual disability, not only in Poland and Greece, but also in the rest of Europe".
Special Olympics Europe believes the Parliament's backing has come at a crucial time, as the Commission is set to present its Preliminary Draft Budget (PDB) proposal for 2010 tomorrow (29 April).
The 2007 EU White Paper on Sport, which prepares the ground for a future EU sports programme, calls on member states, sports organisations and local authorities to take account of the needs of people with disabilities to ensure equal access to sporting activities and infrastructure for all.
Last year, the Commission gave a funding boost to the European Paralympic Committee (EPC) and signed a declaration in support of its work. The Paralympic Games are for people with physical and visual disabilities.