Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Flame of Hope lights up Dubai as countdown to Special Olympics continues

Torch bearers visited some of the emirate's most famous landmarks, including Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa

The Flame of Hope tour is taking in all seven emirates before the Special Olympics World Games, but it has been many months in the making for one proud participant.

Sherrie Eadie was part of the convoy of athletes and law enforcement officers, known as the Guardians of the Flame, who carried the Olympic torch through some of Dubai’s landmarks yesterday, starting at Burj Al Arab in Jumeirah, before calling in to Quranic Park, Miracle Gardens, Kite Beach, La Mer and then Global Village.

The torch route also took in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.

Eadie, who is from Sydney, Australia, was amazed by the support she and her fellow runners received during their journey, which will end at the opening ceremony of the Games in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“I knew all about the Special Olympics, so my family is very proud I am involved,” said Eadie, who has an intellectual disability.

“I’ve been training for eight months to prepare for the 35 kilometres of running we are doing.”

Clocking up the hours in the heat of an Australian summer helped Eadie prepare for the challenge, and she welcomed the unusually cool climate of the UAE.

Like many of her fellow athletes and torch bearers, Eadie has been enthusiastically posting photos of her experiences on social media during the 10-day torch tour.

Eadie was told in March by the Special Olympics committee she would be taking part in the torch run across the UAE.

“My dad actually set me up, and surprised me with the news,” she said. “He said he had a meeting at home and wanted to see me there. It was then he told me the good news.

“The energy of the tour has been amazing, with big crowds during our last run on Friday.”

Another torchbearer with a special reason for taking part is team leader Kristine Crosman from Massachusetts, in the US.

Crosman was inspired to get involved after her severely disabled daughter trained as a young athlete, before her death at the age of nine.

“It is a different world to be a part of and everyone who is involved has their own reason for wanting to be here,” said Crosman, who has been involved in the two previous Games in Los Angeles and Graz, Austria.

“It can bring out emotions, but usually the sad times are turned around pretty quickly when you speak to others who are here.

“It reminds me of my daughter, Kailyn, as she connected me to this world before she passed.

“It is sad, but the support helps and hearing other athletes’ stories is inspiring.

“It takes a special person to do this, as most people would not want to be volunteering their time for these kind of events.”

Kailyn was born with half a brain and spent her life in a wheelchair. She could not speak and was blind.

“When we watched Kailyn throwing, and hitting like any other competitor as a young athlete, we realised what an amazing event this was,” said Crosman, a policewoman who has raised about $150,000 (Dh550,000) for good causes.

“It gives us a little comfort and healing for having lost our daughter so suddenly. Seeing these people overcome their challenges gives us great hope.”

The Law Enforcement Torch Run – called the Flame of Hope run for the Abu Dhabi Games – was first staged in Wichita, Kansas ahead of the 1981 Special Olympics.

It is the movement’s largest fundraising event, with police, correction officers, volunteers and other law-enforcement professionals collectively raising almost $620m for good causes.

First Sergeant Shaikhah Al Shamsi, 26, from Abu Dhabi, is an Emirati law enforcement officer chosen as a Guardian of the Flame for the torch tour.

“It is a mission we have been chosen for, and the people we have seen along the way have been very supportive,” she said.

“Everyone has been so welcoming, and it has been good to meet other colleagues in law enforcement from around the world.

“It is a big honour to have this amazing event in our country, and to be a Guardian of the Flame,” said Al Shamsi. Other law enforcement officers carrying the torch are representing America the US, Canada, South America and East Asia - with eight men and two women from the UAE.

The flame arrived in Dubai after stopping over in Sharjah on Friday.

The torch will be carried through Dubai again today, before travelling to Al Ain on Monday, Al Dhafra on Tuesday and Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, on the eve of the Games.

The Games will feature more than 7,500 athletes representing 192 countries and will be the biggest in the 51 year history of the event.

Updated: March 9, 2019 09:55 PM

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