Abu Dhabi hosts Special Olympics World Games 2019 across nine venu

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Basketball player Damir Davis with mascot and Etihad Airways cabin crew. Basketball player Damir Davis with mascot and Etihad Airways cabin crew.

More than 7,500 athletes from 190 countries took part in the Special Olympics World Games 2019, in Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), between March 14 and 21.

From football stadiums to golf courses, Abu Dhabi used nine of its modern venues for the event. The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre hosted nine sporting events including powerlifting, table tennis and roller skating. Yas Marina Circuit, known for its involvement with Formula 1, hosted the cycling events, while those competing in sailing or kayaking events headed to Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club.

The event marks the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event and a global movement which focuses on the empowerment of people with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport.

It is the first time the games have been held in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) since the movement’s establishment more than 50 years ago and it is expected to be the biggest sports and humanitarian event of 2019.

Abu Dhabi’s efforts in hosting the Special Olympics 2019 is part of the Year of Tolerance initiative, led by the president of the UAE, Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. The campaign has been implemented to highlight the emirate states as a global capital for tolerance.

However, the UAE has long been a driving force in the Middle East for the protection and promotion of rights for people with intellectual disabilities, or “people of determination” as they are called in the UAE.

Michelle Carney, CEO of Special Olympics Great Britain, said: “The acceptance and inclusivity we all felt in Abu Dhabi added hugely to the experience and we all want to extend our thanks to our hosts for what was an amazing fortnight.”

The Special Olympics Great Britain team, comprised of 128 athletes, scooped up 169 medals across 17 sports, including nine golds for the equestrian team, gold for the men’s basketball team, gold in the men and women’s tennis singles, as well as bronze, silver and gold medals for the cycling team.

Cyclist and winner of three gold medals at this year’s Special Olympics, Kiera Byland said: “This was a really successful World Games for us and it was an honour to compete in such an important sporting and humanitarian event. The whole team had a fantastic time in Abu Dhabi and we were all excited to see a whole new part of the world. I hope to go back soon!”

Abu Dhabi’s official airline, Etihad Airways, was responsible for flying the British athletes, coaches, delegates and media back from the games.

James Harrison, General Manager for Etihad Airways in the United Kingdom and Ireland, said: “It has been a privilege for Etihad Airways to support the Special Olympics World Games. The event has been an incredible success in Abu Dhabi and we hope it has showcased the city as the forward-thinking and multicultural centre of tolerance, faith and inclusion that we know it to be.”

James Lancaster
Written By
James Lancaster

AMI editor James Lancaster is a familiar face in the meetings industry and international association community. Since joining AMI in 2010, he has gained a reputation for asking difficult questions and getting lost in convention centres. Proofer, podcaster, and panellist - in his spare time, James likes to walk, read, listen to music, and drink beer.


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