Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 February 2019

Special Olympics World Games 2019: Tickets, Opening Ceremony, and the Torch Run

Everything you need to know about the event

The Special Olympics are taking place in Abu Dhabi on March 14 to 21. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The Special Olympics are taking place in Abu Dhabi on March 14 to 21. Chris Whiteoak / The National

The Special Olympics World Games will be one of the largest sporting events in the world in 2019 – and is being held right here in the UAE.

More than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches from more than 190 nations will compete in 24 Olympic-style sports held in nine venues in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

Here's everything you need to know about the event.

When and where is the Special Olympics World Games 2019?

The Special Olympics World Games will take place in Abu Dhabi between March 14 to March 21 primarily in Abu Dhabi, although some events will also take place in Dubai.

The 'Flame of Hope Torch Run'

The official torch for the Special Olympics World Games will be lit in Athens, Greece, then transported to the UAE where it will be run throughout the country by Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officers from around the world – also known as the "Guardians of the Flame."

Officially, it is called the Law Enforcement Torch Run, but for 2019 it has been branded the Flame of Hope Torch Run.

The torch, or "Flame of Hope", will arrive on February 28 at Abu Dhabi Airport on an Etihad flight. Then, on March 4, the Torch Run will start at Wadi Al Wurayah Waterfalls in Fujairah, before travelling to Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain, Ajman and Sharjah.

During its travels, the torch will spend a day at locations across the UAE, including Jebel Jais, Fujairah Fort, Al Majaz Waterfront and Al Thiqa Club – a club in Sharjah supporting People of Determination, which also serves as a training venue for some Special Olympics Athletes.

Then, the torch will spend two days in Dubai, carried past iconic monuments including the Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Frame, Al Seef Village and the Atlantis Hotel. There will be a ceremony in Burj Park on March 10.

The Torch Run will then go to Al Ain and Al Dhafra, before finishing in Abu Dhabi where it will visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Founder's Memorial and the Abu Dhabi Louvre.

The torch's final destination will be the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics on March 14.

The torch run helps raise funds and awareness for the Special Olympics and offers the opportunity for everyone in the UAE to experience the spirit of the games.

Who takes part in the Special Olympics and what are intellectual disabilities?

The Special Olympics is a sporting event for People of Determination – people with intellectual disabilities.

An intellectual disability is a term to describe someone with limited cognitive function and skills. This might include communication, social or self-care skills, the Special Olympics' website says.

Typically these limitations occur before a person is 18 and can be caused by injury, disease or a problem in the brain.

Examples of causes of intellectual disability are Down syndrome, complications during birth, severe head injury or a stroke.

Approximately one to three percent of people in the world have an intellectual disability. They are significantly more common in low-income countries, which are home to 80 percent of all people with disabilities.

How to attend the Opening Ceremony

The Special Olympics will begin on March 14 with a parade, a lighting of the cauldron and a series of performances at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.

There are 40,000 tickets available for the event in which more than 7,500 athletes from 190 nations will take part.

Tickets cost 100 Dh and can be bought through the Special Olympics site on Ticketmaster, but children under the age of two do not need a ticket.

There will be no parking at the opening ceremony, but a park and ride system at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque will be in place, running from 3:45 pm until 11:30 pm.

Doors will open at 4 pm, but it is not yet known what time the show will start.

How to buy tickets to watch events at the Special Olympics

There are not currently exact details on how to buy tickets for the events, but you can register your interest online.

Where are the venues and which sports will they host?

Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi

This is the primary location for the Special Olympics.

Badminton March 15 - 20

Basketball March 15 - 17, 19 - 20

Bocce March 15 - 20

Gymnastic - Artistic March 15 - 16

Judo March 16 - 18

Gymnastic - Rhythmic March 15 - 16, 19 - 20

Table Tennis March 15 - 20

Power Lifting March 16 - 18

Roller Skating March 15 - 17

Handball March 15 - 20

Volleyball March 15 - 17, 19 - 20

Al Forsan International Sports resort, Abu Dhabi

Equestrian March 16 - 20

Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

Triathlon March 8

Hamdan Sports Complex, Dubai

Swimming March 15 - 20

Abu Dhabi Corniche, Abu Dhabi

Beach Volleyball March 16 - 20

Yas Links

Golf March 19 - 20

Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, Abu Dhabi

Sailing March 18 - 20

Kayaking March 17 - 18

Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi

Football March 15 - 20

Bowling March 16 - 19

Tennis March 15 - 20

Dubai Police Academy, Dubai

Athletics March 17 - 20

The schedule.
The schedule.

The UAE's Host Town programme

Athletes participating in the Special Olympics will experience Emirati culture and hospitality with visits to towns across the UAE ahead of the games' opening in March.

The Host Town Programme is an initiative by the organising committee of the event to promote awareness about people of determination and encourage their inclusion into everyday society.

Coming from countries including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Canada, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Macau, Taipei, Monaco, Belgium, Russia and Austria, the athletes will be visiting one of the seven emirates beginning next month.

The Special Olympics red wristbands

Official wristbands in support of the Special Olympics World Games have gone on sale at Adnoc petrol stations.

The red wristbands come with the slogan 'Meet the Determined'.

Dozens of world leaders, sports stars and celebrities have been showing their support for the Games by donning the wristband on social media.

The Special Olympics and the Year of Tolerance

The UAE is currently celebrating its Year of Tolerance, a time to reflect on one of the founding values of the UAE and to champion the diversity of nationality, religion and experience in the country.

The Special Olympics is seen as a part of this. During a festival of Tolerance in November last year, the organisers of the Special Olympics led a 2km Walk Unified event, attended by the UAE's leadership.


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Updated: February 20, 2019 04:36 PM