Leaving SO2014

Antwerp, June 7th 2013. Yves Vekemans, President and CEO of Herculean cvba, has decided to end his contract as CMO and member of the executive committee of Special Olympics 2014.

“I learned a lot on this worldwide movement in the past 1.5 years. I worked in many different sectors during my career, but never experienced the very specific culture of non-profit organizations. It’s amazing to meet so many authentic and engaged people who give all their energy on a daily basis. I’m glad I could help build a great team and a vision for Special Olympics 2014. We managed to get a lot of new believers on board. The project is now getting into execution mode and that would require too much of my time to do it right. With the international expansion of Hercules Trophy, that’s impossible to do”, says Vekemans.

Vekemans adds: “I’m convinced that the current team holds all the cards to make a big success of SO2014. Not a simple job in these difficult economical conditions in a country where sport or charity is not part of the culture. It was heartwarming to see that there are still companies and people with a good heart. People who really care about Special Olympics.”

“The board of SO2014 understands and respects the choice of Yves and wants to thank him for his input, ideas and positive energy. The team will take over and focus on the success of the games. The board whishes Yves a lot of success in the future expansion of Hercules Trophy”, says Catalina Daniels CEO van Special Olympics Europe Eurasia Summergames 2014.

“I will always remain a supporter of Special Olympics and the organization can always count on my support. Now it’s time to focus on the growth of Hercules Trophy in the Middle East, USA, Africa, Europe and Australia. Implementing such a massive growth in 3 years time was a true Herculean effort!”

SO2014 under the high protection of Princess Astrid

HRH Princess Astrid of Belgium has a very warm heart for Special Olympics in Belgium for all the right reasons. The athletes and volunteers are very proud of that. HRH also decided to support the Special Olympics 2014 Europe-Eurasia Games in Antwerp.

A few days ago, HRH gave a highly unusually interview for prime time TV. Very unlike her, very unlike our royals, as she only decided this the day before during the Opening Ceremony of the National Games! An opening ceremony that she attends every year for many hours by the way.

She took a huge risk in doing so as the Flemish media is not a big fan of the Royals. She didn’t get any questions in advance. Respect! Another milestone for Special Olympics.

(The interview is in Dutch.)


Me and my hero

You know Nelson Mandela is my number one hero, but Count Jacques Rogge, the eight President of the IOC, is definitely in the top 5. Yesterday I had the chance to meet him briefly in person. He spoke on a Congress about Sport and Diplomacy. Did you know he’s going to be the President of the Honorary Committee of Special Olympics 2014? So proud I will actually get a chance to work with him on the “Games of the Heart”!

Sorry for the bad quality picture. My Samsung Galaxy needs urgent replacement…

Do good, do well and have fun doing it: the new sexy

You can do good and well at the same time. You can even have fun while doing it! It’s the new sexy (although becoming 40 is pretty sexy too).

A few months ago I did a speech for a crowd of executives about Special Olympics 2014, together with Evy, one of the athletes who inspired us for the new logo of the games. Special Olympics is one of those examples where we try to do good by doing well. We support the games with fundraising and with Herculean people helping them out.

During my speech I said something along the line like: “Come on guys, we all know we have been doing the wrong things in the past 10 years, time to change that right? Time to show our hearts and engage in good things! Special Olympics is ideal!” Magically they all stood up and started applauding!?! I didn’t anticipate that at all and I had a very hard time not to become very emotional on stage.

A few weeks ago we held the inaugural Hercules Trophy in Johannesburg at International Nelson Mandela Day (and Richard Branson’s birthday Smile). As you know, Madiba is our hero. The efforts of the SA Olympic Team and the Herculean efforts of the participating companies to do good were just mind-blowing. Everybody at that day new: we have started an amazing journey here. There was a lot of crying involved.

About 2 years ago I met a business leader who explained the concept of coops to me. I immediately new: this is the way forward. We started Herculean – the holding company of all Hercules Trophies – as a coop who wants to inspire fans all over the world to do good and well. No we are not going to go IPO – sorry Facebook, you really did the wrong thing – we are going to allow our fans to join the coop, think long term and change the world with us!

A few months ago Inge and her 2 sisters decided to start the Herculix Foundation as separate initiative to inspire our fans to bring social change through sports. They recently closed a partnership with Ammado to organise fundraisers through the Hercules Trophy teams. They support Randall’s Island Sport Foundation, Special Olympics 2014, International Nelson Mandela Day, Laureus Foundation The Netherlands and many many more to come in the next months.

We all have the power to bring change. We can all do good AND well. We are doing everything we can. Join us? Just do it.

Sports for all

Last week one of the Hercules Trophy contestants told me what she liked the most: “I was so scared before the Trophy, but after half an hour I experienced that anybody could compete! I didn’t need to be scared at all! I joined the competition with people I work with on a daily basis, not a team of top athletes. And you know what: we had a blast and ended higher than expected. However, it was all about having fun! The party and the connection with other contestants was amazing! It was more important to participate than to win.

I love to hear that, because that’s the whole point!

So now you understand why I’m such a fan of Special Olympics? Because they do exactly the same thing. Sports for all people with an intellectual disability, regardless of “level”. It’s not about cheating. It’s not about egos. It’s about the love for sports. The love for people. It’s about uniting people through sports. It’s about fun. It’s about making people better through sports.

UnifiedLast Saturday we did a great experiment: a Special Olympics Unified Team competed for the first time in the Hercules Trophy. They had a blast and did the most crazy sports!!! And you know what? They never trained with the “partners” who played with them: some fabulous MBA’s from the Antwerp Management School.

Hercules Trophy supports Special Olympics through the Herculix Foundation. On Christmas Evening, we will anounce “The Kindest Team”. That’s the team who raised the most funds through their teampage. Thanks Ammado for the great support!

The best Games ever

Yesterday, we launched the Special Olympics 2014 Summer Games. What a night! Thank you Nike for hosting us. Thank you Special Olympics Europe and Belgium. Thank you organizing committee. Thank you volunteers. Thank you President Herman Van Rompuy for all your support and a great speech! Thank you talented people who made this possible. Thank you partners who are already in. But most of all: THANK YOU ATHLETES for inspiring me in the past 6 months. It has been a great journey and it’s getting even better every day. I’m so proud I can be the CMO for this amazing project.

Here’s a fabulous video of Chairman and CEO, Tim Shriver, explaining what’ it’s all about.

We simply do not know what the future holds

That’s a quote of Peter Bernstein. I agree that we can’t predict the future, but we can create it.

Took the week off from Christmas until New Year. One of the rare holiday weeks this year. That’s what you get when you love your life.

591177664_tumblr_lp5vqyDmXd1qfuohco1_400_xlarge[1]I evaluated the year 2011 with Inge and decided what to focus on in 2012 to get closer to our long term goals.

Did everything go as planned? Of course not. Nothing ever does, so stop complaining and start working harder! Had major setbacks but also achieved a lot more than expected. Who would have thought exactly one year ago, we would have achieved so much??? So in the end 2011 was a smashing year.

As always, I share my short-term vows with everybody who wants to know. Inch by inch remember?

  • Welcome a new member in the family on January 18th. Nope, Inge can’t be pregnant.
  • Start playing golf again with Inge.
  • Inform the Belgians that Special Olympics Summer Games 2014 are coming to Belgium and create a fabulous team of people who want to help me.
  • Aim for +1.000 teams participating at a Hercules Trophy in the UAE, The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, USA and South-Africa.
  • Look for at least 4 new Hercules Trophy locations for 2014/2015/2016 so we can reach +5.000 teams per year. Singapore! New states in the USA! India? Australia? Canada? Abu Dhabi? Qatar? Sao Paolo?
  • Support the Herculix Foundation with an eBook written by Inge and myself and collect lots of funding for all the good causes of Hercules Trophy.

My general gut feeling about 2012 tells me most people will now experience what we’ve experienced in the past 3 years: mayor uncertainty and chaos. It’s a challenge guys, but we’ve got great news for you: if it doesn’t kill you, it will make you stronger (Nietzsche).

No winner believes in luck (again Nietzsche), or do you think Messi is all about luck? In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die, who’s gonna win that inch. Are you willing to fight and die for that inch? I am. Because that’s what’s living is.

Best of Messi

So that was the secret mission

Those who follow me on Twitter know that for weeks now I’ve been preparing for a new and exciting mission.

The Special Olympics Summer Games 2014 are coming to Antwerp and I will take the role of CMO (Chief Marcom Officer). In the next days and weeks I will create a dream team of professionals who will work on this exciting mission for the next 3 years. As I will remain President and CEO of Hercules Trophy I will divide me time between both challenges.

Why I’m so excited? How many reasons do you need? For me, the video below was crucial to understand I want to be part of Special Olympics.

Special Olympics

In 2007, Special Olympics Belgium with the assistance of McKinsey and company developed a bid document to bring the games to Belgium. They succeeded. In September 2014 the Special Olympics Europe-Eurasia Games will come to Belgium for 9 days. Special Olympics specifically target athletes with a intellectual disabilities. Antwerp, one of the 22 Olympic cities, will host the event for 2,000 athletes and their delegations from 57 countries. More than 4,000 volunteers will help to make the multi-sport event unique and unseen.

The mission of Special Olympics is to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, giving them continuing opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community.

  • “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”, that’s the Special Olympics athlete oath.
  • “Everyone can be a hero”, says Herculix.
  • All sports for all people. This is surely a phrase that people will consider foolishly utopian. That prospect troubles me not at all. I have pondered and studied it at length, and know that it is correct and possible.”, said Pierre de Coubertin.
  • “Sport has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.” That’s what Nelson Mandela taught us. At Hercules Trophy, we use this statement to make people understand the value of sports for teambuilding.

Understand why I’m so excited about this?

I hope we can make you all fans of Special Olympics in the years to come.

Fans of Special Olympics


You can find the press release here.