The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 has announced that 11 new Sub-Saharan African nations have signed up for Special Olympics programs and will be participating in the World Games in March 2019.

Special Olympics programs have been newly established in Burundi, Cape Verde, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Chad and South Sudan.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 is an integral part of a series of planned initiatives to expand opportunities for people of determination in line with Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s shared vision of a unified and inclusive society.

In order to familiarize the newly accredited nations with the Special Olympics movement, the upcoming World Games and the Games’ host nation and its values of inclusion and tolerance, a workshop that was organized and led by the LOC, took place last week in Nairobi, Kenya. More than 30 participants from the newly accredited nations took part.

As part of the workshop, participants learnt about intellectual disabilities, early childhood development, and the importance of how a family support network and sports can help transform lives.

Whilst there, the LOC met with athletes and families from the Special Olympics Kenya delegation - currently the largest Special Olympics delegation in Africa - and visited several humanitarian projects, which have been funded by the UAE including the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Nairobi.

The UAE is taking an active role to promote the power of sport to transform lives and its values around tolerance and unity across the world. The LOC is working closely with Special Olympics in international locations where programs did not previously exist in order to broaden access to dedicated training program and to showcase the talents of people of determination.

Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “In line with our mission to be the most unified host of the most unified World Games in the history of Special Olympics, we are committed to empowering all people of determination around the world and giving them the chance to shine and showcase sporting excellence on a global stage.

“In just under five months, Abu Dhabi will host 2019’s biggest sports and humanitarian event and we look forward to welcoming every single nation to the UAE in a celebration of unity.”

Home to more than 200 nationalities, the UAE’s diverse society and culture of unity and warm hospitality are reassuring factors in making the journey to the World Games for the first time, enabling young and aspiring athletes with intellectual disabilities to enter an international competition and benefit from the enriching experiences to be gained from participation.

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, which takes place 14-21 March, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event in the world next year. More than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches from more than 176 nations will compete in 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports.