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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 March 2019

Hope burns bright in Abu Dhabi

At these Special Olympics, there will be only winners

UAE athlete Mariam Al Zaabi, carries the Flame of Hope during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games Abu Dhabi 2018. Ryan Carter for the Crown Prince Court
UAE athlete Mariam Al Zaabi, carries the Flame of Hope during the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics IX MENA Games Abu Dhabi 2018. Ryan Carter for the Crown Prince Court

The arrival of the Flame of Hope in Abu Dhabi marks the start of the countdown to one of the largest and most significant international events to be held in the UAE. It also signals the beginning of a festival of human achievement that cannot fail to move and inspire all who will witness it. Over the next two weeks, 7,500 athletes from 190 countries will converge on the capital for the Special Olympics World Games, the largest sporting event ever staged for sportswomen and men with intellectual disabilities.

These games are the first in the movement’s 50-year history to be held in the region. They are here because the ethos of the Special Olympics is a perfect fit with the UAE’s values of inclusivity and unity, and the nation’s commitment to altering attitudes towards all people living with disabilities. Flown in today from Athens, the historic home of the Olympic movement, on Monday the Flame of Hope will begin its 10-day journey to the opening ceremony of the games. En route, it will pass through each of the seven emirates before arriving at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on March 14. The Olympic flame is no stranger to Abu Dhabi, which last year hosted the Special Olympics IX Mena Games. Now, a year on, the region’s special athletes are to be joined by the best in the world, competing across 24 sports from athletics, swimming and cycling to sailing, football and basketball.

Over the next few weeks, Abu Dhabi and the world will witness amazing feats by some of the world’s most amazing athletes, each one of whom has refused to allow intellectual disability to define them and is determined to be the best they can be. Strap in for an inspiring ride. Throughout this celebration of the very best of humanity, there will be tears and triumphs, commiserations and celebrations. But, above all, there will be joyful living testimony to the truth of the motto of the Special Olympics: "In this world there are millions of different abilities, but no disabilities."

Updated: February 27, 2019 07:09 PM

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