Abu Dhabi promises 'best ever' Special Olympics in 2019

Denzil Pinto 22:15 24/01/2017
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Ready for the show: Al Wahda's Ismail Matar had a kick-about with athletes in IPIC Arena.

A top UAE official is convinced that Abu Dhabi will not just host the ‘best ever’ Special Olympics World Games but will also set the benchmark when the competition is held in the capital in 2019.

The official agreement was signed on Monday with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in attendance after the emirate had earlier beaten five other cities to win the vote in November.

It will see more 7,000 athletes with special needs and disabilities from 170 nations, competing in the multi-sport competition from March 14-21 in two years time and Majid Al Usaimi, national director of UAE Special Olympics is confident they can exceed expectations.

“We are very happy to be hosting the Games,” said Al Usaimi during the press conference at IPIC Arena.

“It will be the biggest event ever and we will show the world that Abu Dhabi can set a benchmark and host the best games ever.”

Al Usaimi says it’s too early to say how many Emiratis will be competing across the 22 sports, which include football, tennis and cycling, but predicts it will be a significant number.

“As of now I don’t know the number of athletes likely to take part from the UAE but for sure it is going to be a big number,” he said.

“We want to send a message that all humans have an equal opportunity in the community and the best example of this is by integrating people with disabilities with others.”

The Special Olympics officials were given a taster of what to expect when Al Wahda and UAE footballer Ismail Matar enjoyed a kick-about with a group of athletes.

The announcement sees the Special Olympics World Games, which is recognised by the International Olympic Committee, come to the Middle East for the first time and their chairman Timothy Shriver said it was “an easy choice to make.”

“Abu Dhabi is the ideal choice to help bring about true change for millions of people with intellectual disabilities and their families in a strategically important region of the world,” he said.

“Selecting the city as host for the Special Olympics World Games in 2019 was an easy choice to make.

“Both Abu Dhabi and the UAE have made disability a priority and we are certain that the city’s exceptional infrastructure, experience in hosting some of the world’s biggest sports events, and the warm welcome from the people of the UAE will make for a memorable event.”

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