Soviet Special Olympics Fountain

By Nick Victoria

“Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World” by Zurab Tsereteli

“Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World” is a fountain made by Soviet artist Zurab Tsereteli in 1979. His inspiration for the project arose from when the United Nations declared 1979 the International Year of Child and Brockport hosted the 1979 International Summer Special Olympic Games. Tsereteli, who was teaching a painting course at Brockport at the time, constructed the fountain as a gift to the school. More significantly, the donation was the first gift from the USSR to the United States. It also marked the 1979 Special Olympic Games, held in Brockport, as a major turning point and symbol for changes in international political culture after the Cold War.

“Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World” by Zurab Tsereteli.

The five pillars on the fountain are representations of the five different continents that participated in the International Special Olympics Games in 1979. Zurab Tsereteli had plans to modify the piece of art by adding more of a colorful scene onto the base of the fountain, but the Soviet Union’s Invasion of Afghanistan in 1979-1980 prevented any further add-ons to the fountain. The base of the fountain was finally finished in 2017 by William “Bill” Andrews and Nate Hodge, after taking creative inspiration from Tsereteli himself. “I’m looking at it like a collaboration across time, and my part of the collaboration is to finish integrating the fountain within its environment while respecting what Tsereteli created”, says Hodge.

Image captured by Nick Victoria.

The 1979 International Special Olympics at Brockport was a historical event in the history of the town and the university. Countries from all over the world sent athletes to compete in a multitude of events. Many famous figures such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Muhammad Ali, Pele, and Ted Kennedy all attended to show support to the 3,500 athletes. Over 3,000 volunteers helped run the proceedings, and the entire games was very successful, inspiring, and joyful for all involved.

“Joy and Happiness to All the Children of the World,” more commonly known as the Special Olympics Fountain, is more than just a piece of art at SUNY Brockport. It represents everything the university seeks to represent. The fountain portrays a sense of community, trust, and teamwork. It inspires the many to unite with one another, and to help lift others up when they might have fallen down. It improves the quality of life on campus with its distinctiveness and sense of history, and it brings a sense of connectedness to SUNY Brockport. This fountain is much more than a piece of art; rather, it is a symbol of peace and togetherness both on campus and beyond it.


1 comment

  1. You might be interested that there is a much larger version looming over a Russian city (maybe Karkov) that Brockport’s President Brown deemed too large.
    As you noted, shortly afterward the era of detente ended with a return to the Cold War.
    BTW – Tsereteli is from Georgia, then a Soviet Republic and now an independent country with a very tense relationship with Russia.
    Thanks for helping people realize what an amazing event the Special Olympics were – and the great history of our adaptive PE program.

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