Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 June 2019

Drogba and Romario among Abu Dhabi's star-studded line up for Special Olympics

Top sports figures will lead athletes on the opening ceremony parade for the World Games next month

Stars of the sporting world will be among the celebrities attending the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi next month, organisers said on Sunday.

Marking less than 20 days to go, the Local Organising Committee set out a “who’s who” list of acclaimed footballers, including Brazil legends Romario and Cafu, who helped the national team to World Cup glory in 1994.

Joining them is ex-Chelsea and Marseille striker Didier Drogba, Ivory Coast’s top-scorer.

Among the Special Olympics Global Ambassadors attending is Michelle Kwan, Dikembe Mutombo, Vladimir Grbić, and Apolo Ohno.

Kwan won two Olympic medals and become America’s most decorated figure skater and now sits on the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. Also on the board is former NBA star, Mutombo, who had an 18-year career with the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks, among other teams.

Grbić played for Serbia’s volleyball national team during their gold medal triumph at the 2000 Olympic Games, while Apolo Ohno, the short track speed skater and the most decorated American Olympian at a Winter Olympics will also be there.

With the World Games marking the 50-year anniversary of the Special Olympics movement, the family of Special Olympics Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will also be attending the World Games. Shriver’s son, and current Special Olympics Chairman, Dr Timothy Shriver, is set to give a speech at the opening ceremony.

Organisers said more celebrities and sports stars will attend and that many will walk out with the athletes at the Athletes Parade during the opening ceremony on March 14.

Michelle Kwan said she looks forward to "meeting all of the amazing athletes and coaches who have worked so hard, overcome so many hurdles and now get to represent their country and their families on one of the biggest stages imaginable".

"Abu Dhabi and the entire world are going to witness something truly special, not only next month when the Games are in full swing, but long after the athletes have gone home — these World Games are going to spark real, positive and long-lasting change.”

Khalfan Al Mazrouei, managing director of the Abu Dhabi games, said: “Many of our Ambassadors and supporters have a personal connection to the Special Olympics movement and truly understand the importance of the Games in creating a better future for People of Determination — we hope their attendance will help spread that message to more people than ever before.”

The UAE will welcome more than 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 between March 14 and 21. This will be the first World Games to be held in the Middle East and follows the capital's hosting of the Mena Regional Games last March.

Updated: February 24, 2019 02:35 PM