Abu Dhabi has announced it will host the 2019 Special Olympics, which would be the first sporting event for athletes with special needs and disabilities in the region.
According to The National, Abu Dhabi first expressed its interest in hosting the event in November 2016, and won the bid after the Special Olympics international board of directors unanimously voted to award the World Games to Abu Dhabi based on a site visit by a board committee, a comprehensive bid proposal, and the country’s culture of inclusion.
The agreement was made official on Monday. It was signed by Mohammed Al Junaibi, chairman of the UAE Special Olympics organizing committee, and Dr Timothy Shriver, chairman of Special Olympics International, and witnessed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
Children and would-be participants are excited.
Mohammed Tajer, a 20-year-old who previously participated in the Games, told the National, "I am highly excited that [the Games are] coming to our home in the UAE."
Mariam Al Zaabi, a 28-year-old with mental disabilities, has also expressed interest in running, and said "I am happy that so much care is being given to us by our country’s leaders."
Dr. Shriver wants the Games to be "greatest sports event" held in the UAE, which is very much in line with the UAE's goals.
The 2019 games will feature around 7,000 athletes from 170 countries. They will participate in 22 sport events. There will also be 20,000 volunteers and an expected 500,000 spectators at this event.
Majid Al Usaimi, national director at the Special Olympics UAE said this step was a dream come true, and complimented Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed on his perseverance to integrate people with special needs and disabilities in mainstream society.