June 16, 1999
Release No. 037-99

CONTACT: Lois Herrmann
PHONE: (202) 619-4365
Eileen T. Sexton ('99 Games)

United States Information Agency - News Release


Special Olympics and USIA Establish New Journalist Program

Washington, D.C. -- An unprecedented international journalist program will bring reporters and broadcasters from around the world to cover the 1999 Special Olympics World Games and the Special Olympics Movement. The Games, which provide people with mental retardation a high-profile international platform to showcase their abilities, are scheduled from June 26 to July 4 in Raleigh, Durham, Cary, and Chapel Hill, N.C. The international journalist program, established by the United States Information Agency (USIA), is a first for a multi-sport event.

The 14 participating journalists, representatives of established media outlets, come from Chile, Croatia, Brazil, Estonia, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lebanon, Lithuania, the Palestinian Authority, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe -- countries where information about mental retardation is not widespread.

In many of these countries, persons with mental retardation are still institutionalized and not integrated into everyday society with access to employment and service opportunities. USIA Associate Director Dr. William Bader said: "We hope that coverage of the Special Olympics movement and World Games by their own reporters will help build a foundation in these countries for the expansion of opportunities for persons with mental retardation."

The Program is part of a USIA $l.25 million grant to Special Olympics Inc. Approximately two-thirds of the grant will support foreign and domestic media coverage of the '99 Games this summer. The remainder will support the 2001 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Anchorage, Alaska.

"USIA's support is integral to demonstrating to the media and general public the abilities of Special Olympics athletes participating in this summer's World Games," said Joe Freddoso, CEO of the '99 Games. "Special Olympics is one of the fastest-growing movements in the world with more than one million participating worldwide. However, it is estimated that only a fraction of people with mental retardation participate in Special Olympics worldwide."

More than 7,000 athletes with mental retardation from 150 countries will compete in the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games. The '99 Games will celebrate the Special Olympics' 30-year tradition of providing athletes with mental retardation a high-profile international platform to showcase their abilities and accomplishments. The next Special Olympics World Summer Games, in 2003, will take place in Dublin, Ireland, the first venue outside the United States.

The journalists covering the 1999 World Summer Games through the USIA program:

Brazil - Mr. Vinicius Mesquita, sports reporter for Sao Paulo's daily newspaper Journal da Tarde.

Chile - Mr. Javier Pineiro, sports reporter for El Mercurio.

Croatia - Mr. Hrvoje-Antonio Belamaric, freelance journalist who broadcasts weekly pieces about disability-related issues on independent radio station "101."

Estonia - Mr. Helar Osila, TV reporter for ETV Television.

Jamaica - Mr. Winston Cassanova, sports administrator for CVM-TV.

Jordan - Mr. Rizq Al Masri, special sports reporter for Arabic daily newspaper Ad Dustur.

Kazakhstan - Ms. Antonina Redko, correspondent for journal The Disabled and the Law; Editor-in-Chief for journal NGOS: Theory and Practice.

Latvia - Ms. Dace Gruberte, reporter for Lauku Avize; writer for National Wire Service LETA.

Lebanon - Mr. Waddah El Sadek, director of the sports department at Future T; he also covers the Lebanese Special Olympics events.

Lithuania - Mr. Algirdas Zvinakevicius, head of the Lithuania Radio and Television Sports Dept.

Palestinian Authority - Mr. Mahmoud F. Saqqa, sports editor for the daily newspaper Al-Ayyam and host of a sports talk show for private radio station AMWAJ, both in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority.

Russia - Mr. Aleksandr Vladykin, Deputy Editor-in-Chief for Moscow News.

South Africa - Mr. Thabo Sebulelo Mofokeng, sports correspondent for Sowetan, the largest newspaper in South Africa.

Zimbabwe - Lovemore Banda, sports editor and reporter, Zimbabwean Broadcasting Corporation.

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The United States Information Agency, headed by Acting Director Penn Kemble, is an independent foreign affairs agency within the executive branch that explains and supports U.S. foreign policy and national security interests abroad through a wide range of information programs. The Agency promotes mutual understanding between the United States and other countries through a series of educational and cultural exchange activities.

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