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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 March 2019

Special Olympian tells of golden dreams as Flame of Hope reaches Ajman

American athlete Zechariah Tietz addressed crowds during the latest stop on a ten-day torch tour of the UAE

The Flame of Hope torch tour reached Ajman on Thursday. Reem Mohammed/The National
The Flame of Hope torch tour reached Ajman on Thursday. Reem Mohammed/The National

A Special Olympics athlete vowed to be brave in his bid for victory as the Flame of Hope torch tour stopped off in Ajman on its journey across the Emirates.

Zechariah Tietz, who is representing the United States, was one of the runners carrying the Olympic torch through the emirate ahead of the start of the Games in Abu Dhabi next Thursday.

He offered words of motivation, echoed by his fellow torchbearers, as crowds assembled to welcome the iconic flame.

The runners set off from the Ajman flagpole at 9am on Thursday, arriving in the Al Zorah district of the emirate 90 minutes later, where they were greeted by a Palestinian band playing traditional dabke music.

Crowds cheered on as the Special Olympian spoke of his desire to do his country proud.

“The most famous words that most definitely define me and define the rest of the athletes and that I hold near and dear to my heart are ‘let me win but if I cannot win let me be brave in the attempt’,” said Mr Tietz.

Juwaidan Sayyed, an activities co-ordinator at Ajman Private School, was in attendance as the ceremony took place.

Ms Sayyed said she made sure children at her school were aware of the significance of the Special Olympics World Games being brought to the Middle East for the first time.

“It was my main goal that they know what they are going to see and how important it is not to look differently at people with determination and to treat them like who they are, equals,” said Ms Juwaidan.

After the torch was lit the ceremony turned into a celebration of unity.

The Olympic torch tour in Ajman hit the right note with a performance by a Palestinian band. Reem Mohammed/The National
The Olympic torch tour in Ajman hit the right note with a performance by a Palestinian band. Reem Mohammed/The National

Members of the public attending the event joined hands with the runners as they danced to the Palestinian music.

The band's leader was delighted with the response to their performance.

“I didn’t expect that I would be moved and encouraged to support such an event before now and even spread the word around,” said Zyad Iskandarani.

The torch runners toured attractions such as Ajman Castle, Ajman Corniche and Ajman Museum, ahead of the final ceremony at Ajman Marina.

Before reaching its final destination at the opening ceremony of the Games in Abu Dhabi next Thursday, the flame will move on to Sharjah on Friday where it will be carried to attractions such as Sharjah Heritage Museum, Al Noor Island, Al Majaz waterfront and the flag Island.

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 8, 2019 11:43 AM

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