Preview: I Love Special Olympics
When I first seen the title, I wrongly assumed that the documentary would be about the upcoming Paralympic Games which are taking place this summer. It’s actually about the Special Olympics, which sees those with learning difficulties take part in a variety of games.
This refreshingly honest documentary, filmed over six months by Thomas Leader, follows four competitors in the build up to the games which were held in Leicester in 2009. It features the four speaking openly about their disabilities and the chance to compete in the games.
What took me by surprise was how honest the parents of the competitors were about bringing up a child who is seen as ‘different’. A ten-pin bowler, Jonathan, couldn’t walk properly until he was 9 years old and was seen as ‘slow’ by health officials. His mother however feels responsible for Jonathan contracting measles when a child, leading to the problems he still has today.
Oliver, who has lived with foster parents for the past 7 years, talks openly about the moment his parents left him behind to start a new life in Spain. Blind in one eye and suffering from autism, he’s training to compete in the Judo tournament, already a champion in the field.
The programme also features Tom, a basketball player with aspergers syndrome and Hannah, probably the star of the show, who has downs syndrome. Hannah talks about preparations performing in front of 30,000 spectators and her life having downs – not wanting it any other way.
“Every since I started my path as a film maker I have always been fascinated in telling stories; stories which tell the truth and make a difference. This film does just that. My journey with Hannah, Jonathan, Oliver and Tom did not just explore their worlds but made me look into mine too. It certainly is my ‘story about finding happiness’.” – Thomas Leader
I Love Special Olympics airs Thursday 19 July at 9.30pm on BBC Four, and available after on BBC iPlayer.
For more on the 2009 Games click here