The UAE will take a major step towards creating a world of inclusiveness and acceptance as it hosts the Special Olympics World Games 2019.
From March 14 to 21, there will be some 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 195 countries competing in 24 games across Abu Dhabi and Dubai, making it the world's largest sports and humanitarian event this year. The UAE will be participating with 297 athletes and more than 70 trainers.
The event is an opportunity to promote awareness about inclusion and, importantly, tolerance towards the people of determination. It will not be about competition but celebration of humanity. This will be one event in which everyone is a winner.
Swimming coach Debbie Schreiber said that World Games will change perception of common people towards the people of determination. "This event gives these children more options to be inclusive in the community. This is chance for them to get involved, participate, have fun and enjoy sports. Some have never been part of a team. There are many who didn't know swimming but they do now, they couldn't ride a bike but do that now. But society doesn't know about them. They aren't included but if you put them out there, they can show and prove themselves. And then there will be acceptance from the community," she said.
Omar, head coach of sailing and kayaking, is confident that his 11 determined athletes will gain a lot through this experience. There are seven athletes for sailing and four for kayaking.
"The team has been training together for 18 months and were finalised in last September. We are training six hours a day till the final day. They are in the water for five hours and then take a break for an hour. We have unified partners who train with the athletes. We are making sure that the athletes are getting used to sailing with the partners. The teamwork is important in the preparation for the games. These events will see the athletes evolve as better persons. This will boost their confidence to step out in the sun more often," Omar said.
In kayaking, athletes will compete in single and double - 200m and 500m, and in sailing it will be in three levels. "We are all ready and hope to win some medals," Omar added.
Host Town Programme
The organisers are leaving no stones unturned to promote Emirati culture through this event. The World Games' Host Town Programme by the Local Organising Committee, in partnership with the Ministry of Community Development, will be the largest cultural exchange programme in the Middle East and North Africa. Through this programme, the delegations and athletes will spend three days in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah to experience Emirati hospitality.
Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development and Chair of the Community and Legacy Committee of the Games, said: "Communities across the UAE look forward to welcoming them into their homes, community and their families. The Host Town Programme is a wonderful opportunity to build life-long friendships between the athletes, coaches and the families who have volunteered to host them and demonstrate the world-famous generosity of the UAE."
Mohammed Abdullah Al Junabi, chairman of the Higher Committee of Special Olympics World Games, said everyone in the UAE is opening their doors and hearts for the Host Town Programme.
UAE will set a benchmarkfor future: Games CEO
The UAE, as the hosts of the 15th Special Olympics World Games, will set a new bar of excellence, a top official has said.
Special Olympics CEO Peter Wheeler said the World Games 2019 will have more global impact than any of the previous editions and set benchmark for future games.
"This will be unique as the venues are world-class. We will also have the most number of countries ever participated in the games. With the participation of 195 nations, it is truly unbelievable. Importantly, this World Games will highlight athletes like they have never done before and give them the recognition they rightly deserve. People will be surprised by the skills these athletes have. Hopefully people will come out and be part of the experience."
The 'Flame of Hope' - symbol of Special Olympics is on tour of all seven emirates. Wheeler said the flame has ignited excitement among everyone.
"This is the first time the flame has travelled into the UAE so there is huge excitement.
The flame gets people excited and they rally around it. There is so much support and excitement for the flame, which has such symbolism. It presents hope for the athletes and also for the world. This event is about possibilities not only for the athletes but also for people of determination."
Wheeler noted the next big task was to have stands in the stadium full of supporters.
"This will be a great event and hopefully there will be lot of people cheering when the athletes are out there. Every athlete likes to perform in front of supporters. These athletes deserve all the possible support," Wheeler added.
By Ashwani Kumar
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