Sport can be an incredibly powerful thing.
It divides us and unites us at the same time.
It brings whole communities together in support of a common goal.
And it can change the lives of those who immerse themselves in it.
We’re incredibly lucky here in Abu Dhabi to play host to some of the world’s biggest competitions.
And the long line of sporting spectacles continues with the arrival of the Special Olympics IX Middle East and North Africa regional Games 2018 on March 17.
The action kicks off with arguably the most iconic tradition in sport – the lighting of the Olympic Torch.
Thousands of athletes and fans will descend on Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre to watch the flames erupt and mark the definitive opening of the games.
More than 1,000 athletes from 31 countries will take part in 16 sports including athletics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, power lifting, roller skating, swimming, table tennis, tennis and volleyball.
This weekend, members of the public can walk-in and watch the Games from March 18-20 at eight venues.
These include ADNEC, NYUAD, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al Jazira Sports Club and Al Forsan Club.
And it will whet the capital’s appetite ahead of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 next March.
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.
It’s the first time the event has been held in the Middle East and North Africa, so everyone will be keen to put their best foot forward and make it a huge success.
Both competitions form a key part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 which aims to promote full integration of people of determination into everyday society.
The country’s rulers have thrown their full support behind the events and have taken part in a number of walks, dubbed Walk Unified, in the past few weeks.
We know everyone in the capital will join them in hoping the games will be an overwhelming success.
Mar 17-20, various venues. www.abudhabi2019.org