What it's like to be a torch bearer for the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

We speak to Chaica Al Qassimi about her role in the upcoming event

What it's like to be a torch bearer for the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019

Before the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 has even begun, the Law Enforcement Torch Run will take place across all seven emirates. The run will go on for ten days, with the torch beginning its journey in Fujairah on March 4 and going on to visit iconic sights across the UAE, such as Jebel Jais, Fujairah Fort and Al Majaz Waterfront.

The torch will then reach Dubai on March 10, when it will be carried past Burj Al Arab, Dubai Frame, Al Seef Village and the Atlantis hotel. After that it will spend a day in both Al Ain and Al Dhafra, before concluding its route in Abu Dhabi with a visit to the Grand Mosque, the Founder’s Memorial, Louvre Abu Dhabi and other locations across the city.

The team of torch bearers, or Guardians of the Flame, is made up of Special Olympics athletes and hundreds of law enforcement officers from around the world.

We were lucky enough to speak to Emirati torch berarer Chaica Al Qassimi, who is also a judo referee in the Special Olympic World Games this year.

Chaica has Down’s Syndrome, and she told us why having the Games in Abu Dhabi will change her life for the better.

Are you excited to be a torch bearer?
I’m so excited, I’m going to Athens with my mum for four days to collect the torch. Then we are taking it all over the Emirates, but I’m not sure how far I will be carrying it for yet. I’ve been doing some training for the run. Normally I go to the gym quite often but I’ve also been doing distance running outside. I’m super excited.

How do you feel about the Special Olympics World Games coming to Abu Dhabi?
To tell the truth, it’s amazing that the Special Olympics are coming here. It’s had a big effect on me because I was born here and it’s very exciting for me to think that there will soon be so many people of determination visiting the UAE.

Do you think it will make the UAE more inclusive?
I think that after the Special Olympics, there will be lots of opportunities and inclusive roles for people with disabilities. In education and in life, people will be treated equally. We need to change people’s mindsets, a lot of people have fixed attitudes towards people of determination and the Games will change that.

Did you have to do a lot of training to become a judo referee?
Yes there’s lots of things to cover. You have to learn the hand signs, rules, also practising what happens in competitions. So I’ve learnt a lot.

Why do like martial arts?
Because it empowers people of determination to be strong and positively defend themselves from discrimination. I do nine different forms of martial arts, so I will carry on with those after the games. I’ve competed before in Cairo and in Madrid. Madrid is the only competition which is open to people with determination so that shows just how progressive Spain is. I loved visiting the country as well.

We also hear from Emirati torch bearer Mohammed Bakhit Salem Al-Sabousi, who tells us why he thinks Abu Dhabi is perfect host city for the Games

“I feel very proud and excited to be a torch bearer and involved with the Special Olympics. It will be a new experience for me and I’m doing sports and exercises on a daily basis to ensure I’m properly prepared. The Special Olympics is so important because it will help raise awareness of people with intellectual disabilities and make them feel more accepted by the community. The fact that the capital of the United Arab Emirates is hosting the Special Olympics World Games is sending an important message to the world. Abu Dhabi is the perfect host city because of its wise leadership and their love for sport, its world-class venues such as Zayed Sports City, and all the careful preparation which has gone into the event.”

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