Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 June 2019

Thousands of Olympians and coaches enjoy best of the UAE in Host Town Programme

Athletes and coaches from around the world celebrate at Dubai's Global Village

More than 4,000 athletes and coaches attended the closing ceremony for the Special Olympics Host Town Programme at Global Village, Dubai, last night.

Under the programme more than 11,000 people from more than 190 nations, were hosted across the seven emirates.

Athletes and coaches spent the last three days being guided around the UAE, taking in sights such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Louvre Abi Dhabi, the Dubai Frame and Dubai Parks and Resorts.

The three-day tour of the UAE ended last night with an array of multicultural music acts playing to more than 4,000 athletes and coaches, who will be taking part in the Special Olympics World Games.

“I am amazed at the scale of Dubai and the friendliness of all the people here,” said Andrew Stuart, 19, who will be representing the Great Britain team in golf.

“We have seen first-hand how welcome visitors are made to feel in this country and it’s very impressive.”

James Francis Duncan, 33, who hoped to pick up a medal playing football for Australia, said he has loved every minute of his time in the UAE.

“I just love it and it has been even more special because we get to share it with athletes from other countries,” he said.

“The highlight for me so far has been the amusement parks they took us around. It has been great fun so far and it’s really opened my eyes to different cultures.”

Egyptian rollerskater Sherif Mohamed Nada, 20, said that being part of the Special Olympics had given him a great feeling of happiness.

“I am just extremely happy to be here and be part of this amazing event,” he said.

“Dubai is incredible and we have all had a brilliant time. It is an awesome place.”

His coach said that Global Village was the perfect location for the closing ceremony.

“These Games are global and that’s why you couldn’t find a better place to host this event than here,” said Wael Mohamed Ghazala. “Everybody is enjoying themselves and having such a good time.”

Canadian football coach Neil Lewis said the Host Town Programme had been a resounding success because it had helped the athletes to bond with their hosts.

“We are all in love with the UAE – it’s such a beautiful and friendly country,” he said.

“The athletes are all incredible. People don’t realise how much hard work goes into getting everyone together – some members of the team have to travel hours just for training.

“It’s great to be able to see them getting their rewards.”

American basketball player Jeffrey Anthony said he could not get enough of the UAE.

“I really love it here. It’s incredible to see how everything is built here,” said the 24-year-old from Arizona.

Ireland’s Daniel Byrne said he could not have asked for a better welcome.

“It is such a nice country and they have gone out of their way to be respectful to everyone,” said the footballer from Dublin, who will be hoping for a double celebration at the Games because his 20th birthday falls on March 16.

The event could not have been a bigger success, organisers said.

“We want to show that Dubai is as much a society for people with disability as it is for anyone else,” said Maryam Al Obaid, policy and strategy adviser for the Executive Council of Dubai.

“The Host Town Programme has been about showcasing our local culture and folklore.

“We have had so much fun with the athletes and we are so proud of what we have achieved.

Updated: March 11, 2019 06:41 PM

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