Special Olympics World Games – A Legacy of Inclusion
The Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi ran from March 14 – March 21, 2019. More than 7,500 athletes from 190 countries competed at the event, with an estimated half a million spectators in attendance. It wasthe largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019 and the first Special Olympics World Games ever held in the Middle East and North Africa.
The World Games in Abu Dhabi was the most unified Games in the 50-year history of the Special Olympics movement. More sports than ever before were played by “unified teams” of athletes with and without intellectual disabilities. Another historic aspect of these games was the participation of athletes from 22 countries that had never before sent a delegation to the Special Olympics World Games.
Through sports, Special Olympics brings fulfillment and joy to athletes’ lives and expands society’s understanding of human talents and potential. The UAE shares Special Olympics’ mission of promoting inclusion and respect for those with intellectual disabilities –officially called People of Determination in the UAE.
The 2019 World Games will have a lasting impact on the lives of People of Determination in the UAE and throughout the Middle East. The UAE has unveiled several policies in conjunction with Special Olympics to accelerate inclusion in education and healthcare, and raise awareness of disabilities. And by demonstrating the value of social inclusion and providing a winning model in the UAE, Special Olympics has the potential to instigate change in countries across the region.