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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 18 December 2018

UAE hosts Special Olympics iftar in Washington

The UAE will be the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to host the Special Olympics World Games in 2019

Young athletes heading to the Special Olympics in the UAE next year join an iftar reception at the UAE embassy in Washington on June 7. (HANDOUT/UAE Embassy)
Young athletes heading to the Special Olympics in the UAE next year join an iftar reception at the UAE embassy in Washington on June 7. (HANDOUT/UAE Embassy)

In the spirit of Ramadan and bringing people together, the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Washington hosted on Thursday a Special Olympics iftar, attended by athletes who will participate in the World Games in 2019 to be hosted in Abu Dhabi.

It was an evening to introduce the UAE, its values and culture, its cuisine and its diplomats to the group of special Olympians from the Washington area who said they were thrilled at the idea of travelling to Abu Dhabi.

Michelle, one of athletes present at the event, told The National she can’t wait to travel to Abu Dhabi next March and discover the country's food and desert.

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The programme featured remarks by Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davis; Frank Stephens of Special Olympics Virginia, and Dana Al Marashi, head of heritage and social affairs at the UAE Embassy.

In her remarks, Ms Marashi said: “The UAE is thrilled to support the Special Olympics, and honour this important movement, which is dedicated to promoting respect, acceptance, inclusion and human dignity for all people.

“Through sports, people from different cultures and nationalities find common ground and celebrate their diversity. These are the same values that the UAE embodies every single day.”

Ms Davis said the Special Olympics is proud to partner with the UAE and stressed the message of inclusion on display during the iftar.

Also in attendance was UAE’s minister of state for advanced sciences, Sarah Al Amiri. “Having such a gathering holds lot of meaning, especially on iftar... a meal we share with loved ones and those who are near and dear to us,” Ms Amiri told The National.

She said the event highlights “the values of the UAE, of understanding, of tolerance, acceptance and the efforts that the Emirates takes to bring people of determination from various backgrounds together, to be a more inclusive society.”

For his part, Mr Stephens said the “games should be a beacon to the world for more understanding ...thank you for letting us display our beacon in Abu Dhabi”.

The attendees participated in the traditional breaking of the fast and learned more about the values of Ramadan.

The UAE will be the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to host the Special Olympics World Games, which will be the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019. Seven thousand athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in 24 sports.