Op-Ed: Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi reinforces nation’s culture of inclusion

by Mohammed Jalal Al Rayssi, Executive Director of the Emirates News Agency, WAM ABU DHABI, 11th March, 2019 (WAM) —

The glorious scenes that were witnessed during the reception of the Flame of Hope of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, at the Founder’s Memorial, as well as the participation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in the ‘People of Determination Retreat’ and the signing of its document, remind us of the meeting of the board of the Special Olympics International Authority held on 16th November 2016.

During that meeting, for the first time in its history, the board voted unanimously to make Abu Dhabi the host of the 2019 edition of the Special Olympics World Games, confirming that it has all the requirements for hosting the event in terms of infrastructure, sporting facilities, accommodation, transportation, and qualified personnel. Most notably, the UAE is now an ideal destination for hosting such events, as it represents the values of communication, acceptance, openness and inclusion.

The UAE’s hosting of the event will be supported by its success in hosting the Asian Cup, the Youth World Cup, the Formula One Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi Jiu Jitsu Professionals Championship, the Mubadala Tennis Championship, and the Abu Dhabi International Cycling Tour, as well as by its reputation as a key destination for hosting international events.

Abu Dhabi 2019 will witness significant innovation and momentum, especially as it will take place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed. The event’s success should be studied and reinforced with an innovative approach, aided by the collaboration and cooperation between all relevant national sectors. The Special Olympics is part of the country’s future development vision and strategy, which reflects its high-level official, community and volunteer efforts with professionalism.

This is showcased by the participants of the Flame of Hope March, including Special Olympics athletes who toured the country’s seven emirates during a journey of culture and tourism, passing around 100 key landmarks, with the participation of the country’s citizens and residents.

The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, ADNOC, cooperated with the Ministry of Interior in receiving the Flame of Hope and organising associated events, taking place from 4th to 17th March.

The messages circulated by Arab and International media outlets about the Flame of Hope were remarkable, highlighting the objectives of the Special Olympics related to empowering people of determination and integrating them into the community through sports, in line with the goals of ADNOC to unite and continue its commitment to achieving social development and supporting the country’s efforts to build a community that includes everyone.

It is not surprising that over 3,500 ADNOC employees participated in carrying the Flame of Hope. Another 20,000 volunteers, of which 65 percent were UAE nationals, participated in mobilising and training the employees of national institutions who follow the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan of strengthening the culture of volunteering and making it part of the national culture, which is reflected in the UAE’s charitable, humanitarian and cultural efforts to elevate people of determination to the highest summits, through their hopes, great ambitions and will, as stated by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

Abu Dhabi 2019 is not only a sporting event, it is also a humanitarian message sent by the UAE to the entire world about the key role of people of determination in their communities while confirming the UAE’s capacity to employ local and international partnerships to organise a leading event that reflects its international stature and its global role as the incubator of tolerance and moderation. The Special Olympics is a motivation to exert greater efforts to integrate people of determination into the community, the region and the entire world, as said by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed.

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