Games offer us a golden opportunity
Abu Dhabi’s successful bid to host the Special Olympics World Games in 2019 demonstrates the country’s commitment to support people with special needs and to hold major world events. As The National reported yesterday, the official agreement was signed on Monday at the Sea Palace, and witnessed by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, confirming a decision that had been made in November.
As with World Expo 2020 in Dubai, the benefits to Abu Dhabi of hosting the Special Olympics will go far beyond the event itself. Since their inception in 1968, the games have grown in stature, and they will be one of the biggest events on the global sporting calendar in 2019.
In its comprehensive bid for the games, Abu Dhabi made an undertaking to invest resources in infrastructure and logistics. The bid also underscored our commitment to education, health care and community support for people with special needs.
Critically, hosting the Special Olympics will raise public awareness about people with disabilities. It will foster a positive cycle of increased respect and inclusion. Even those who are not directly involved in the event will know about it, and we will be able to watch familiar sports – including football, basketball, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, weightlifting and equestrian events – at the venues or on television. This should help change perceptions about people with disabilities and replace negative stereotypes with positive associations. The ultimate aim should be to build a more inclusive society, where people with special needs are visible in schools, workplaces and the community in general.
We hope the games also inspire people with special needs to pursue their passions and engage in sport, which is an important element of physical and psychological well-being. Studies have shown that sport can help people gain confidence and give them a sense of belonging, accomplishment and camaraderie.
Hosting the event will also have intangible benefits for Abu Dhabi, such as strengthening the city’s global brand and broadening its volunteer base. An initiative that advances the country and will have a potentially life-changing effect on people is worthy of our wholehearted support.
Updated: January 24, 2017 04:00 AM