Marking less than 20 days to go, the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 has revealed some of the celebrities and leading sports personalities that will be attending the much-anticipated event in March.
In a stellar “who’s who” list of widely-acclaimed footballers, Brazilian legends Romario and Cafu, who helped the national team to World Cup glory in 1994 have confirmed their attendance for the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event of the year.
Joining them is ex-Chelsea and Marseille striker Didier Drogba, who is Ivory Coast’s top-scorer.
Also showing their support for the event are Special Olympics Global Ambassadors Michelle Kwan, Dikembe Mutombo, Vladimir Grbić, and Apolo Ohno.
Kwan enjoyed a successful figure skating career that saw her win two Olympic medals and become America’s most decorated figure skater. She now sits on the Special Olympics International Board of Directors. Also on the Board of Directors is former NBA star, Mutombo, who has represented the likes of Denver Nuggets, Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks during his 18-year illustrious career.
Grbić, who played an integral role for Serbia’s volleyball national team including their gold medal triumph at the 2000 Olympic Games, will be part of the event.
Short track speed skating competitor and the most decorated American Olympian at a Winter Olympics, Apolo Ohno, will also be in attendance.
With the World Games marking the 50-year anniversary of the Special Olympics movement, the family of Special Olympics Founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, will also be attending the World Games. Shriver’s son, and current Special Olympics Chairman, Dr. Timothy Shriver, is set to give a speech at the Opening Ceremony of the Games.
More celebrities and sports stars will be confirmed ahead of the event, with many lined up to walk out with the athletes at the Athletes Parade during the Opening Ceremony on 14 March. More details will be released by the LOC ahead of the event.
Michelle Kwan said “I’m looking forward to arriving in Abu Dhabi and meeting all of the amazing athletes and coaches who have worked so hard, overcome so many hurdles and now get to represent their country and their families on one of the biggest stages imaginable.
“Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is going to be a phenomenal occasion that will go down in history as one of the biggest and best World Games ever held. As a Global Ambassador for Special Olympics, I’m immensely proud to once again be part of a World Games, especially one as significant as this.
"The fact that this will be the first time that a World Games has been held in the MENA region only adds to the incredible sense of occasion and the feeling that we really are about to make history. Abu Dhabi and the entire world are going to witness something truly special, not only next month when the Games are in full swing, but long after the athletes have gone home – these World Games are going to spark real, positive and long-lasting change.”
Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “We look forward to welcoming renowned sports stars and leading lights in their field to support and inspire the athletes as the world comes together in the UAE to celebrate inclusion.
“Many of our Ambassadors and supporters have a personal connection to the Special Olympics movement and truly understand the importance of the Games in creating a better future for People of Determination – we hope their attendance will help spread that message to more people than ever before.”
The UAE will welcome over 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 between 14-21 March. This will be the first World Games to be held in the Middle East, and the most unified Games in the 50-year history of the Special Olympics movement, involving People of Determination in every aspect of the event.