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UAE Special Olympics team set for Mena Games
Amir Naqvi March 13, 2018
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AL AIN: The Special Olympics UAE team, made up of 141 athletes, has been in the final throes of preparations at a training camp in Al Ain ahead of Special Olympics IX Mena Games kicking off on Wednesday.

The Games, which are due to officially start on March 16 when divisioning begins, will see over 1,000 athletes from across the world descend upon Abu Dhabi for the world’s biggest humanitarian sporting event.

The UAE athletes will take part in 15 of the 16 disciplines at the event. Hosts will also field 60 female athletes at the Special Olympics.

The Mena Games will serve as a test event for the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi scheduled to be held in 2019.

Nadhia, coach of the UAE women athletics team, is confident of the team’s better performance at the tournament.

“The girls are preparing hard and we are targeting at least 30 medals. Our team consists of the members who have participated in the Los Angeles World Games 2015 where we grabbed 12 medals, so the team have the needed experience required for such events,” said Nadhia.

Volleyball team member Heyan also sounded optimistic on the squad’s chances. “The preparation has gone well. We are training twice and the whole team is in great shape and brimming with confidence. When I started with the players of intellectual disabilities, it was a new and amazing experience.” 

The Special Olympics UAE team has been busy training twice a day at the camp and met Shamma Al Mazrouei, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chairperson of the Special Olympics UAE Board, on Monday.

Mazrouei said: “Since the decision of Vice President, Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to reform the Council at the end of 2017, they have taken into consideration the importance of reaching with the UAE Special Olympics team to take the podiums, and enhance the UAE teams, taking advantage of the country’s historic opportunity to host the Special Olympics IX Mena Games Abu Dhabi 2018 and the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event, the Special Olympics World Games in 2019.”

She expressed her gratitude for the support of the UAE leadership for Special Olympics UAE, which made all participants and athletes keen to represent the UAE and establish its prominent position in various fields to have the UAE flag raised across local regional and global across all podiums.

This week marks the penultimate week before athletes officially begin competing from March 18 –20.

All athletes participating in the Games will take part in ‘Divisioning’ on March 16. Divisioning is a process that is a part of every Special Olympics Games and evens out athletes via skill level, ensuring all athletes in the competition are similarly abled.

Ahead of the Games, a spectacular torch relay will take place in the UAE’s capital on March 14 before the ‘Flame of Hope’ is carried to ADNEC for the IX Mena Games opening ceremony on March 17.

Host Town Programme

Besides the torch relay, over 160 athletes with intellectual disabilities from countries including Burkina Faso, Cote’ Ivoire, Canada, Serendib, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Macau, Chinese Taipei, Monaco, Belgium, Russia and Austria will visit one of the seven emirates from Monday to March 14 for the Host Town Programme.

The Host Town Programme will host delegations of athletes, their coaches and families, and allow them to experience the rich culture and history of the UAE ahead of their participation in the IX Mena Games.

The initiative is organised by the LOC of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi and aims to enhance ties with both private and government entities in all emirates to promote awareness about people of determination and encourage their inclusion into everyday society.

Taghrid Al Saeed, Director Media and Marketing Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “It is a great opportunity to host the world’s largest humanitarian sports event in Abu Dhabi. This reflects our values and efforts to promote the integration of people of determination into the community and is a reflection of the UAE’s efforts to support global trends addressing the difficulties they face in their lives. We hope to change perceptions of people of determination and show that they can excel in many aspects of life through sports,” she said.

The initiative aims to give athletes participating in Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 the opportunity to learn more about UAE’s culture, customs and traditions.

“The Host Town Programme reflects the hospitality and values of the Emirati nation and we look forward to providing the opportunity for all participants and their families to learn more about the true essence of the UAE and its supreme values of unity, tolerance and co-existence, in addition to promoting solidarity amongst all members of society,” She added.

31 countries to take part

IX Mena Games will be open to members of the public and around 25,000 spectators are expected to visit the Games. Athletes from 31 countries will travel to Abu Dhabi to take part in Mena IX Games, which will be the first major sporting event ahead of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Athletes will take part in 16 different sports that will be hosted in eight different venues including ADNEC, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, NYUAD, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al Jazira Sports Club and Al Forsan Club.

Special Olympics IX Mena Games and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people of determination into everyday society. Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the most ‘unified’ games in history and promise to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, scheduled for March 8-22, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world, with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing more than 170 countries expected to compete in the event.

The largest single event ever held in the UAE and the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East and North Africa, the World Games features 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in venues throughout Abu Dhabi.

The spectacular opening ceremony on March 14 is expected to attract 45,000 spectators.

To be held under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the 2019 World Games will be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history, with inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event.

The Games are the most visible component of a planned series of initiatives by Abu Dhabi and the UAE to expand opportunity for people with intellectual disabilities, and to promote inclusion and understanding throughout the emirate, nation, and region. Plans for operation of the World Games include leaving a legacy of improved health, education, and inclusion that will benefit the UAE long after the event is over.

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