Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 June 2019

Special Olympics hailed for 'transforming lives' as Flame of Hope torch tour reaches Al Dhafra

The tour will conclude at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Games on Thursday

A torch-bearer who has championed the Special Olympics cause for more than 30 years praised its power to “transform lives”.

Retired American police officer John Newman was part of the convoy carrying the Olympic torch through Al Dhafra yesterday, on the penultimate leg of a 10-day journey across the Emirates before the start of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi.

The Flame of Hope tour has taken in all seven emirates, with an army of international law

enforcement officers and athletes – known as the Guardians of the Flame – given the honour of carrying the torch.

Mr Newman, who has supported the torch run at various Special Olympics over the last 33 years, is delighted that the spirit of the Games is still burning bright.

“We take this very seriously because what we are trying to do here is create awareness,” he said.

“People start questioning when they see a group of people running on the side of the road carrying a torch, and this is an opportunity to tell them what it is all about. It is great to be able to participate in a sports programme that transforms lives in a number of ways.”

John Nesky, chief of police at Bowie Police Department in the US state of Maryland, has been proudly participating in the torch run for eight years.

The values of the Games are close to the heart of the police chief, whose brother has Down syndrome.

“Once I got involved I saw how all-encompassing it was. It wasn’t just about athletics but also about inclusion. It is about giving people hope, bringing people out of dark places and giving them confidence, friends and social contact.”

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.

The Flame of Hope tour concludes in Abu Dhabi today, with visits to Louvre Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the Founder’s Memorial.

The flame will reach its final destination tomorrow, for the Games’ opening ceremony at Zayed Sports City Stadium.

Updated: March 12, 2019 10:34 PM

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