Show-stopping opening gala rings in Special Olympics

olympic

A beaming UAE team enter the stadium. Al Khaleej

Abu Dhabi : Excitement reached feverish pitch as the opening ceremony got the the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 — the 50th Anniversary Games — to a rousing start.

Mansour Al Mansouri, Director-General of the National Media Council, NMC, said that the UAE’s hosting of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, highlights its leading position and its capacity to organise major international events.

In a statement on the launch of the Special Olympics, Mansouri said, “We are proud to host the Games in Abu Dhabi, as the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to organise this event, which reflects the leading position of the UAE and its capacity to organise major international events, as well as its support for people of determination.”

“The organisation of the Special Olympics in the UAE is taking place under the patronage of the wise leadership, in line with its belief in the importance of enabling people of determination to effectively participate in the community. Relevant national authorities have provided this precious segment of the community with the appropriate infrastructure and legislation, as per the directives of the wise leadership,” he added.

“The media sector has the responsibility to highlight the issues, successes and achievements of people of determination, through producing content that complies with their needs, and raising the awareness of the community about their role in reinforcing their capacities, as well as establishing media platforms that will address their requirements and provide them with advice and guidance,” he concluded.

The UAE welcomed more than 7,500 athletes from over 190 nations for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 from March 14-21. They will compete in 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in what will be the first World Games to be held in the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Karen Pence, Second Lady of the United States, and the wife of the Vice President, has said that the Special Olympics is a great event showing how difference one person - i.e. Founder of Special Olympics Eunice Kennedy Shriver - can make to better the lives of many people all over the world.

Speaking to the Press Attache at the US Embassy in the UAE, Nadia Ziyadeh on the occasion of the Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2019, Pence said that attending the Special Olympics as an event is very inspiring, adding that it is amazing to see over 7,500 athletes from 192 countries competing and cheering each other on.

“It is such a privilege to head the US delegation to the Special Olympics. Our whole team and everybody in the delegation is excited to come and cheer each others.”

After watching a football match between the US and Kenyan teams played as part of the Special Olympics, Karen Pence said she was moved by the scene of the players from the two teams hugging together and congratulating each others in what she described as a feeling of camaraderie and global harmony.

She paid tribute to Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who in 1962, founded Camp Shriver, which later evolved into Special Olympics.

“When you think of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, you think of difference one person can make. That is what so inspiring about it. The Special Olympics is mostly volunteered and to see all these people supporting these athletes all year round is just an amazing thing.”  

Eunice Kennedy Shriver believed in justice. But, in the late 1950s and early 1960s, she saw little justice in the way people with intellectual disabilities were treated.

Also on Thursday, Special Olympics USA athlete Hanna Atkinson, on Wednesday, opened the ‘Healthy Athletes’ event as part of the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, where all 7,500 athletes competing in the Games will receive free health screenings and health education.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 calls for healthy lives and well-being for all, implicitly establishing the goal for persons with disabilities. In a flagship report published on disability and development by the UN, persons with disabilities have a shorter life expectancy and are at “greater risk of developing secondary, comorbid and age-related health conditions, such as depression, pain and osteoporosis.”

WAM