Kazan, Russia, has been selected to host the 2022 Special Olympics World Winter Games, the organization announced Monday.
More than 2,000 athletes and unified partners will be part of the Games, which are coming to Russia for the first time. The southwestern Russian city of Kazan, which hosted FIFA World Cup matches in 2018 and the World Swimming Championships in 2015, will host the games from Jan. 22-28, 2022.
The Winter Games were initially slated for Sweden, but were moved and postponed a year after funding from the Swedish government fell through.
"Hosting the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2022 adds Kazan to an elite group of international cities leading the inclusion charge for people with intellectual disabilities," said Mary Davis, CEO of Special Olympics. "The global Special Olympics movement has confidence in Kazan's ability to host a world-class Games that deliver a lasting impact. Congratulations to Kazan!"
ESPN is the worldwide broadcaster for the event, which officials hope will add to the 128,000 Special Olympics athletes in Russia -- about four percent of the estimated three million people will intellectual disabilities in the country. Athletes will compete in seven events -- alpine skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, floorball, cross-country skiing, figure skating, and short track speedskating.
"We are thrilled to host the Special Olympics World Winter Games 2022," said Olga Slutsker, President of Special Olympics Russia. "Hosting this prestigious and deeply significant event gives us the opportunity to show Russia and the world that people with intellectual disabilities are capable of competing at the highest levels of sport. It will demonstrate the power of our movement not only as a sports organization but also as a leader in the drive towards a truly inclusive world."
The last Special Olympics World Winter Games took place in Austria in 2017. The most recent summer games were held in Abu Dhabi in 2019.