Special Olympics Middle East & North Africa is one of the Special Olympics International’s global seven regions. Comprising of all 22 Arab countries members of the Arab League in addition to Iran.
In 2000, Special Olympics chose Ayman Abdel Wahab to be the Middle East North Africa’s first Regional President & Managing Director. Under his leadership, the number of registered athletes has increased from 20,433 in 2000 to nearly 150,000 in 2016 despite ongoing turmoil in the region.
The first regional games were held in 1999 in Egypt with the participation of 210 athletes. In 2019, the region will be hosting its first-ever Special Olympics World games, the world's largest humanitarian and sporting event. The games will be held from 14-21 March with the participation of 7000 athletes from 170 countries under the guidance of 2500 coaches and delegates.
Special Olympics has hosted two regional MENA competitions in recent years in the UAE: in Dubai in 2006 and in Abu Dhabi in 2008, welcoming 1,500 athletes from 23 countries to a seven-day programme under the patronage of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi.
In 2018, UAE will host the Regional Games once again, providing an excellent “dress rehearsal” for the World Games in 2019.
SO UAE shares the mission of the Special Olympics movement, providing opportunities and training for physical fitness through competitive sport, and helping its athletes lead healthier, more joyful lives and participate more fully in their communities.
Since the 1990s, Special Olympics UAE has participated in 12 regional and World Games and has more than 5,000 registered athletes/Unified partners and 300+ coaches. Last year, our athletes competed in more than 70 events. Over the years, UAE Special Olympics has taken part in – and hosted – numerous major events, both international and regional.
UAE Special Olympics takes part in 16 official sports: Athletics, Badminton, Basketball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Equestrian, Floor Hockey, Football (Soccer), Handball, Power lifting, Roller Scating, Snowshoeing, Speed Skating, Swimming, Table Tennis
The UAE is fully and formally committed to expanding the impact of Special Olympics throughout the Emirates, as articulated in the UAE National 2021 Vision. This comprehensive planning initiative to improve the quality of life for UAE citizens includes efforts to expand and formalize social tolerance and inclusion for all people, including those with intellectual disabilities.
The UAE’s leadership has also expressed its support for UAE Special Olympics playing a leadership role in promoting inclusion and integration throughout the region, and its appreciation for the pride and happiness that the athletes have inspired in the people of the UAE and throughout the Middle East and North Africa.