It’s go time for the Special Olympics MENA Games – here’s what you need to know

With less than a month to go until Abu Dhabi hosts the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 here’s a quick rundown of what you need to know


The countdown to the Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 is on and here’s everything you need to know about the region’s largest humanitarian sporting event.

What is the Special Olympics?

The Special Olympics is a global movement that promotes inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. Through sports, the organisation aims to change perceptions and integrate people of determination into mainstream society. As the world’s largest sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, Special Olympics is a front-runner for making the world a better, healthier place for everyone.

What is it not?

Special Olympics is a sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities. It is not to be confused with Paralympics which is for people with a wide variety of physical disabilities. Both institutions are recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

What impact does the Special Olympics have?

Special Olympics is comprised of over 4.9 million Special Olympics athletes from 172 countries. As the world’s largest sports organisation for people with intellectual disabilities, the movement champions other important initiatives like healthcare, tolerance and inclusion for people of determination. Through its Healthy Athletes programme, Special Olympics has provided more than 1.9 million free health exams and trained more than 220,000 healthcare professionals, making it the largest public health organisation for people with intellectual disabilities as well.

Why was Abu Dhabi chosen to host it?

Abu Dhabi is the first city to host two major Special Olympics events back-to-back including the MENA Games in March and the World Games in 2019. Beyond its first-class amenities and state-of-the-art sports venues, the UAE has profound spirit; an atmosphere inspired by prosperity, tolerance and peace – values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. As people from all over the world arrive in Abu Dhabi for the Games, they will be embraced by the community and inspired by the culture.

What are the aims?


The UAE is committed to cultivating prosperous, happy lifestyles for all people. The country was one of the first in the region to establish specialised centres and programmes for people of determination. Hosting the Special Olympics World Games is a testament to the country’s resolve to become an inclusive and unified society. Through the Host Town and Adopt a Nation programmes (see p18) and similar initiatives, the UAE will inspire change and improve the lives of people of determination today, and beyond.

What is the MENA Games?

Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is one of seven Special Olympics International global regions. Its first Regional Games were held in 1999 and the ninth edition of the MENA Regional Games will see 3,000 volunteers and more than 1,200 athletes from 32 countries competing across 16 different sports. With the support of the community and actively engaged leadership, the MENA Games is the ultimate way to prepare the capital for next year’s Special Olympics World Games.

When and where is it happening?

The Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 are taking place in Abu Dhabi from 14th-22nd March in several sports facilities across the capital. Most of the activity will take place at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC) and Zayed Sports City. Additional venues including Yas Marina Circuit and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) will also host competitions.

How can I get involved?

Volunteers are absolutely vital to the success of this event and you have a unique opportunity to support Special Olympics and shape the history of sports in Abu Dhabi. To learn more about volunteer opportunities, visit:

Do activities just start and end with the MENA Games?

Absolutely not! There are many activities happening in preparation for the MENA Games. Community events like Walk Unified, mall activations and the opening and closing ceremonies are all perfect opportunities to join the movement. Once the MENA Games are over, Special Olympics Abu Dhabi welcomes you to join the festivities ahead of the Special Olympics World Games taking place 14th – 21st March 2019.

For more content about the Special Olympics 2018 MENA Games visit our dedicated blog here.

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