More than 1,200 inspiring athletes from 33 countries will converge on the capital for the start of the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games in just a matter of months.
The massive event, which celebrates the sporting achievements of competitors with special needs and learning difficulties, will be held in Abu Dhabi in March as part of the build up to the emirate playing host to the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi in 2019.
A total of 184 Emirati athletes will be gunning for glory in sixteen sports – including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, football, cycling, gymnastics and roller skating - from March 17 until March 22 next year.
Registration for the regional games opens this month and will be open until November.
Hopefuls from across the MENA region will be battling it out for podium places with international rivals hailing from a host of far-flung destinations, including Canada, Russia, Belgium, Austria, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Samoa and Burkina Faso.
His Excellency Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming thousands of athletes from across the world to participate in the MENA Regional Games 2018. This will be the UAE’s first opportunity to spread our message of inclusivity, tolerance and philanthropy. The MENA Regional Games are just the beginning for us as we look to empower our athletes and people of all abilities and disabilities across the UAE and the region.”
Ayman Abdel Wahab, President & Managing Director of Special Olympics MENA, said: "With the 2018 Special Olympics MENA Regional Games just around the corner, this is a huge opportunity for Abu Dhabi to revolutionise the way in which people with intellectual difficulties are perceived in this region.”
Athletes will compete in sports including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, powerlifting, table tennis, tennis, roller skating and, volleyball.
Abu Dhabi will become the first city in the Middle East to host the prestigious Special Olympics World Games when the event rolls into the city from March 14 to March 21, 2019.
The global festival is set to attract more than 7,000 athletes from 170 nations, making it the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event of the year.
The MENA Regional and World Games are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people with disabilities into everyday society.