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Speech made by Minister Kishino at a reception held in honour of the Special Olympics GB Team

21 March 2005

Lady Sorrell, Athletes of the Special Olympics, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am delighted to be with you all this evening to celebrate the return of the British team from the Special Olympics held in Nagano. I hope you, the athletes, all enjoyed both the Games themselves and everything you experienced in a different cultural and social environment. No doubt you took the opportunity to make friends with Japanese people as well as participants from other countries, and to savour various aspects of Japanese culture. I trust that you will look back upon your visit to Japan with pleasure and affection, and that you will maintain your interest in Japan in the future.

Let me now congratulate you on your magnificent achievement in winning 3 gold, 6 silver and 10 bronze medals. This triumph is particularly significant because it reflects both your considerable skills and your perseverance. In the run-up to the Games, you must have made tremendous efforts in preparation for the event, trusting that your endeavours would be rewarded. In fact, the Special Olympics are not just about what happens in the stadium on the day, but about the whole process whereby the participants, through their own determination to help themselves, can enlarge their horizons to encompass much more than just sport.

This is why it struck such a chord when one of the athletes at the Opening Ceremony in Nagano said: "Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt. "

I would like to pay tribute here to the vision of Eunice Shriver Kennedy, who founded the Special Olympics in 1968. The Games have inspired and brought hope to countless people around the world. They have also helped to foster a wider understanding of the whole issue of learning difficulties and what it means to live with them. This is why the Crown Prince and Prime Minister Koizumi went all the way to Nagano to attend the Opening Ceremony of the Games.

This evening we are, quite rightly, celebrating what you, the athletes, have accomplished. However, my appreciation also goes out to those parents and supporters who have extended their continued encouragement and assistance to the athletes. Their role is in many ways as important as that of the athletes themselves.

Therefore I thank you all for your wonderful contribution to the Special Olympics and for joining us here this evening.

May I now introduce Lady Sandra Sorrell, Chairman of Special Olympics Great Britain�ߡ�/p>



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