The Netherlands Embassy in Ghana, has refused to grant the Ghana Special Olympic team visas, to enable to them participate in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria. Ghana’s 20-man contingent who were scheduled to depart the shores of the country on Monday, March 13, were left in a limbo concerning their participation.
The quadrennial competition, which was opened to children with intellectual disabilities, spans from 14-25 March. Ghana was billed to participate in the floorball competition on Monday, March 20. According to a Board Member of the Special Olympic Ghana (SOG) Nana Wereko Ampim, the Netherlands Embassy refused them visa on the grounds that, they would not return to Ghana after the Games.
He expressed disappointment over the unfortunate incident saying “it was sad and disheartening that the Embassy would harshly denied athletes, who have been to United States for similar games, because they were intellectually disabled without proper background checks. “The SOG Board was comprised of reputable professionals, who have dedicated their time for a good cause of helping the intellectually disabled persons in our society”.
Mr. Wereko-Ampim, said the behaviour from the Netherlands Embassy has forced the president of the Special Olympic Africa and the world body to come to the rescue of the team but the Embassy’s posture still remains the same. On his part, though the president of the Republic of Austria, His Excellency Alexander Van den Bellen has ordered the Netherlands Embassy to Ghana to grant Team Ghana the visas, the embassy has stack to their discriminatory position to the plight of the intellectually challenged athletes though the games were designed for them.
He disclosed that, the Embassy exempted Team Ghana from paying visa fees, after they submitted their travelling documents on February 2, 2017. He mentioned that, though they faced visa challenges, his outfit will continue to nurture and develop the potentials of the athletes as a way of integrating them into society in a meaningful manner.
Mr. Wereko- Ampim therefore appealed to the government to come to their aid to enable the teams’ participation be fruitful. Ghana won four silver medals in the last World Special Olympics Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2015 after winning 4 silver medals in athletics and produced the second fastest woman in the world in the 200m when Princess Ayin of Bator Special School in the Volta region clocked 25sec.