What is the Special Olympics?

Two international sporting events are coming to Abu Dhabi. The Special Olympics MENA Games takes place from 14th-23rd March 2018 and the Special Olympics World Games takes place from the 14th-21st March 2019. So what are the events all about? 

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The Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Since its inception in 1968, Special Olympics has worked to create a community of inclusion through sports.

Today, there are 4.9 million Special Olympics athletes, aged eight years old and up, who come from 172 countries to participate in the Games. As a frontrunner for changing attitudes towards people with disabilities, the organisation has created programs like Special Olympics Unified Sports, which brings together people with and without intellectual disabilities.

Unified sports teams are a great way for people to have fun while learning about one another. This, and other Special Olympics initiatives are highly regarded and supported by celebrities, professional athletes and world-class organisations. Once a year, the NBA invites Special Olympics athletes to take part in the NBA Cares Unified Basketball Game with stars and former players of the NBA and WNBA.

How is Abu Dhabi involved?

The 1993 International Winter Games in Austria was the first International Olympic Games to be held outside the US. Since then, many countries have been hosts and this year, Abu Dhabi becomes a host city. Middle East North Africa (MENA) Special Olympics is one of seven Special Olympics International global regions and it comprises all 22 Arab countries. Under the direction of Ayman Abdel Wahab, regional president and managing director, the number of registered athletes has increased and the MENA Special Olympics Regional Games will take place from 14th to 23rd March 2018 in Abu Dhabi.

The MENA region has a strong tradition of hosting Regional Games for its athletes and National Programmes and this will be the ninth edition of the Regional Games. The Regional Games are not only a signature event for the MENA Region but also an exciting run-up to the 2019 World Games also being held in Abu Dhabi.

How can I get involved? 

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With more than 1,200 athletes from 33 countries competing in 16 different sports, the Regional Games are sure to be an entertaining sporting event. Given the scale of the games, MENA Special Olympics is depending on the community for support.

It’s estimated that 450 coaches and more than 3,000 volunteers are needed. Volunteers are welcome to choose their area of specialisation from medical, communications, IT and much more. If you would like to serve as a volunteer at the Regional Games, visit: volunteers.ae/specialolympics

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