New Special Olympics UAE Games to be held each year
More than 650 athletes from across the country will take part in six different sports
A new series of Special Olympics Games will be held in the country for UAE athletes each year, officials announced on Wednesday.
More than 650 athletes with intellectual disabilities will take part in the event, which this year will run from March 20 to 22.
The Games will feature six sports – basketball, athletics, volleyball, badminton, swimming and powerlifting.
The aim is to build on the legacy of the Special Olympics World Games held in Abu Dhabi last year.
“We announce today the launch of the Special Olympics UAE Games Abu Dhabi 2020,” said Saif Al Qubaisi, a medallist at last years major event.
“It’s a new trip involving challenge and competition. Stay tuned.”
The UAE Games will begin with an opening ceremony on March 19 after the Special Olympics Flame of Hope tours the capital on March 14.
Athletes must be more than eight years old but there will also be more than 130 non-disabled participants supporting competitors as partners.
“The recent World Games marked a turning point for people of determination with intellectual disabilities across the UAE,” said Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth.
“The UAE Games will build on this as an annual milestone. It will also serve as a platform to increase understanding, tolerance and inclusion throughout the UAE.
“This is not only a legacy of the World Games, continuing the inclusion, but it starts new frontiers in unified games.”
More than 7,000 athletes competed in the UAE's Special Olympics World Games last year.
It was the first time the event had been staged in the Middle East and a record-breaking 192 countries sent their teams to compete.
While the UAE Games will have a smaller feel, officials said it would be no less dramatic.
It will continue to foster understanding of those with disabilities, ensuring an ongoing atmosphere of tolerance in the country.
A family support group will also be available “as a mechanism to break down stigma and also raise awareness about intellectual disabilities", Ms Al Mazrui said.
Updated: February 13, 2020 09:30 AM