The Grande Sfida International – Great Challenge International – returns to Verona. The event of culture, sport, arts, and dialogue focusing on disability will take place in Piazza Bra on Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28. Sport will play a significant part, with famous champions and people with various disabilities from all around Italy and some European nations will compete against passers-by 

The festival, now in its 28th year, will take place over two days in Verona’s historic center. For thirty years, the Grande Sfida International has combined art, sport, and debate around the theme of disability, and this year’s slogan perfectly captures the spirit of the organizing association: it is “We need us.” Because collective issues need collective solutions, which can only be discovered via dialogue and confrontation.    

And sport has always been an incredible promoter. Sports events, as well as a carefree moment, will then be an occasion to meet and get to know each other in our diversity. Starting from Saturday, when the international swimming contest will take place at the Montebianco Pools.     

Sunday, following the conference in the Gran Guardia, the streets of the center will be transformed into a playground, with the participation of people with mental, physical, and sensory disabilities from all over Italy and some European cities, like Austria, Germany, and Albania. In addition to football, basketball, and volleyball, athletes and participants can compete in baseball for the blind, wheelchair rugby, and table tennis.    

Sitting volleyball is also particularly popular, especially after the success achieved in Bardolino with the 3×3 sitting competitions when for the first-time mixed teams of people with and without disabilities were challenged. The match will also be attended by Andrea Lucchetta, a former volleyball player who in the 90s was part of the so-called “generation of phenomena”, or the volleyball players of the Italian national team considered the strongest formation ever.   

In Piazza Bra there will also be Martina Piccoli, professional athlete, and the goalkeeper Alessandro Filippi along with Gabriele de Rossi, the 70-year-old table tennis champion who won gold last national championship in Messina. Together with many other champions and the mayor of Verona Damiano Tommasi, former Italian footballer who has participated in the event for years. And who knows if even the mayor will return to dress the player’s jacket to confront his fellow citizens.   

In addition to sports, there will be various cultural events. It will begin on Saturday with the “IncontrArti” event, which will bring various artists to the square and other locations throughout the city from 10 to 21. There is also a group from Tirana arriving for the first time. The festival will be officially opened by pianist Andrea Speri, who will perform works by Morricone, Cipriani, Beethoven, and Remo Vinciguerra in Cortile Mercato Vecchio. Vinciguerra’s work Azzurro Mare, in particular, was written for Speri.  

This year was also revived another important initiative for the city of Verona that aims to include people with disabilities in the workplace returns. This is the project “negozi senza barriere” – “shops without barriers” – that over the years has seen a growing number of entrepreneurs from Verona who have opened the doors of their businesses. Until 11 June people can also admire the works already on display in the windows of the thirty-five shops that have joined the initiative street gallery, an “exhibition in motion” of artistic artifacts produced by people with disabilities.   

“We live immersed in irreversible globalization but we struggle to live with the diversity that knocks at our proximity”, this is what we read on the manifesto of this year’s edition, and on this conviction the great challenge is based. An event, therefore, that aims to be opportunities for encounter and knowledge of the other to create a larger “we”.   

So, the great challenge that the association launches is to make people meet through common passions for sport, art, culture and work to create a feeling of belonging because, according to La Grande Sfida International, “the handicap is the distance that separates people from each other”.