Now’s a great time to be living in Abu Dhabi. With the Year of Tolerance well under way and the excitement of the Pope’s visit still resonating, the next big event on the horizon is the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
From March 14 to 21, more than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 192 countries will come together to compete in 24 Olympic-style sports such as gymnastics, basketball, golf, swimming, and cycling.
The participating countries are spread throughout the world, and include New Zealand, Thailand, Great Britain & Northern Ireland, Italy, Finland, Kenya, Canada and many others.
As the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event, the Special Olympics World Games promote the values of acceptance and inclusivity.
All the competitions are completely free to attend, all you need to do is register at www.meetthedetermined.com.
You can register for tickets on the day you want to go, but organisers recommend you do so in advance to ensure you get a spot.
Registration not only gets you access to the sports themselves, but also to the festival areas and family-friendly entertainment. You’ll also be able to see the winning athletes receive their medals.
The first games took place in 1968 in the US city of Chicago and from the beginning, the movement has strived to empower people with intellectual disabilities through sport, and also change people’s attitudes towards them.
This year’s Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi will also be largest event of its kind to take place anywhere in the world in 2019.
You’ll be able to witness the athletes in action across eight of the capital’s world-class sporting venues: Zayed Sports City, Yas Links Golf Club, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, Al Forsan Resort, Hamdan Sports Complex and Abu Dhabi Corniche, while some events will also be held at a couple of Dubai venues.
It’s the first time that the Special Olympics World Games has been held in the MENA region and it’s also set to be the most unified games in the competition’s history, as people with intellectual disabilities are involved in every aspect of the event.
This includes creating and staging the performances for the opening ceremony. More than 40,000 spectators are expected to be in attendance at Zayed Sports City when the competition kicks off in spectacular fashion on March 14 and tickets are on sale now for Dhs100 at www.ticketmaster.ae.
Perhaps most significantly, it will feature the largest number of athletes and nations to ever take part in a parade at a Special Olympics Opening Ceremony.
The athletes will also be joined by a number of celebrities and sporting heroes who are supporting the event.
The opening ceremony will also see the Special Olympics UAE athletes complete the Law Enforcement Torch Run by carrying the ‘Flame of Hope’ into Zayed Sports City and lighting a cauldron to mark the beginning of the games. The torch run has been a Special Olympics tradition since 1981. It is said to symbolise courage and also celebrate uniting different communities around the globe.
So whether you’re into football, golf, horse riding or athletics, you won’t want to miss out on being a part of this historical event.
Mar 14-21. Various venues, www.abudhabi2019.org.