Insuring the Special Olympics' extraordinary needs

Insurance is essential for the athletes’ protection, as well as peace of mind for parents and caregivers

Insuring the Special Olympics' extraordinary needs

Insurance News

By Gabriel Olano

Insuring athletes attending an international sporting competition is a complicated matter, even more so if it’s for an event such as the Special Olympics World Games.

In 2018, Hong Kong-headquartered insurer FWD Group signed a three-year partnership with the Special Olympics, seeking to support young people with intellectual disabilities throughout Asia.

To learn more about how FWD worked with the Special Olympics in its 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE, Insurance Business spoke with Julian Lipman, FWD Group chief of staff; Simon Koh, president and managing director, Special Olympics Asia-Pacific; and Kurtis Siu (pictured), international global messenger for the Special Olympics.

According to Lipman, Special Olympics athletes often have difficulty getting insurance cover to travel to the Games’ venues due to pre-existing condition exclusions from many insurers.

Koh added that due to athletes’ underlying medical conditions, the Special Olympics organisation has to make sure that the athletes have adequate medical evacuation/repatriation, accident and sickness coverages.

“There are travel insurance coverages available for persons with intellectual disabilities (IDs) in public carrier liabilities –  such as missed connection, lost baggage, flight cancellation, etc.,” said Koh.  “But there is no existing medical insurance coverage for IDs. That means Special Olympics programs and families have to bear the full cost of overseas treatment and hospitalisation of their athletes. That also means that athletes with pre-existing conditions are denied opportunities to compete in international events, due to concerns over additional costs and their wellbeing.”

As part of its support for the Special Olympics, FWD provided the necessary insurance cover for the athletes from the Singapore and Hong Kong delegations, giving their parents and caregivers peace of mind.

“We believe this is a step in the right direction to empower people with intellectual disabilities to live fulfilled lives,” said Lipman. “Through initiatives such as this, we hope to change the way people feel about insurance and fulfil our brand promise of enabling everyone to celebrate living.”

Lipman said that aside from providing coverage for the athletes, there is still more to come from the partnership between the insurer and the global sporting body.

“We have a three-year partnership with Special Olympics Asia-Pacific to support young people with intellectual disabilities across Asia in Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Japan,” he said. “This partnership allows Special Olympics to expand their Unified Schools and Athlete Leadership programmes across Asia, with skills development mentoring for 300 athletes and 12,000 young people engaged through more than 240 unified events. At the same time, we will continue to find more opportunities such as the travel insurance sponsorship to use our resources to help lead positive change by encouraging social inclusion and advocating equal opportunities for people with disabilities.”

Meanwhile, Siu shared his experience as an international global messenger for the Special Olympics.

“Being an international global messenger (IGM) was totally different from being an athlete in previous World Games. I needed to work together as a team with other IGMs from other part of the world,” he said.

Siu, who hails from Hong Kong, began his involvement in the Special Olympics when he was just 11 years old. He has competed in several World Games, in figure skating and golf competitions.

“My duty was to deliver the message of the Special Olympics, meaning I would speak to different people from corporations and governments from all parts of the world, including the host country of the next World Games,” he said. “For me it is a big challenge to speak in front of people, since I’ve always found speaking in different languages language and socialisation challenging since I was young. From time to time, I also needed to write up speeches for the various events I was attending.”

Over the years, being a competitor and IGM has helped Siu tremendously.

“As my experience grew, I noticed my socialization skills are more mature now,” he said. “My deepened understanding of the philosophy of the Special Olympics and the people around me has also been key to my personal development. Although I did not compete in the games this year, I participated in a few Unified Sport Experience events, which has allowed me to keep up my sports skills and continue to compete in and pursue sports further. I hope I could keep up and prepare for the next World Games to come.”

According to Siu, he is thankful that his latest Special Olympics journey was a safe one.

“Insurance has been a key means of protection that my family believes in,” he said. “It is especially important for when we travel. I am fortunate that I did not encounter any accident during my journey at the Special Olympics, my parents and I firmly believe it is very important to be covered and supported in all aspects during my travel.

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