- Published on 27 November 2016
Coming to the region
Abu Dhabi was named the host nation of the 2019 Special Olympics World Summer Games, reports Inas Mazhar
The Special Olympics Games is coming to the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA) for the first time in its history. The announcement was made when the board of directors of Special Olympics International (SOI) chose Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, as the host of the 2019 World Summer Games in the Executive Committee board meeting in Washington DC. The World Games are the flagship event for Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The Games will be held in March 2019.
Two weeks before the announcement, the CEO of SOI had told Al-Ahram Weekly that it was time the Games came to the MENA region.
Maru Davis had said that although several countries were applying from Europe and the MENA region, “I really hope it comes to this region. I think it would be fantastic for the Games to come to the MENA region because we have had the Games being held in the US, Europe and Asia so I think that would make a huge difference in terms of bringing awareness and recognition to Special Olympics in this region.
“I see the fantastic work that has been done here in this region by MENA regional president and managing director Ayman Abdel-Wahab and his team. So, by hosting the Games in this region, there will be more awareness and conscious raised about it and that is one of the reasons why I believe it should be hosted in this region. In this case, we may have to change the time because of the heat in this region in summer, bringing it forward to March. I don’t think there is an issue about that. But anyway, the decision isn’t mine; it’s the 48 board members.”
The Games in Abu Dhabi will be the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019. The SOI board unanimously voted to award the World Games to Abu Dhabi based on a comprehensive bid proposal presented by Abdel-Wahab who made the bid presentation to the board. Also endorsing the Emirates bid was a site visit by a board committee, and the country’s vision to create inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.
Abdel-Wahab expected that the Abu Dhabi Games will be the biggest and the greatest ever in the history of the Special Olympics Games since the first in 1968 in Chicago where 1,000 athletes, representing 26 US states and Canada took part. The last Games in Los Angeles 2015 saw the participation of 6,500 special Olympians representing 170 countries. Fifty years later, Abu Dhabi is expected in 2019 to host more than 7,000 athletes from 176 countries. “The government of Abu Dhabi promises the best Games ever,” said Abdel-Wahab. That vision begins with the UAE and extends to the region and the world. The UAE is close to Asia, the Middle East and Africa, so the Games are expected to have very broad appeal.
“Having the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi is revolutionary for our movement and for the Middle East region,” said Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics chairman.