UAE, 7th February 2018: The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, in partnership with the Ministry of Community Development has announced the launch of the ‘Host Town Programme’ across all seven emirates of the UAE.

The initiative is organised by the LOC of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi and aims to enhance ties with both private and government entities in all seven emirates to promote awareness about people of determination and encourage their inclusion into everyday society.

Her Excellency Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, expressed her deep appreciation for the support provided by the officials in the seven emirates.

"It is a great opportunity to host the world's largest humanitarian sports event in Abu Dhabi. This reflects our values and efforts to promote the integration of people of determination into the community and is a reflection of the UAE's efforts to support global trends addressing the difficulties they face in their lives. We hope to change perceptions of people of determination and show that they can excel in many aspects of life through sports", Her Excellency said.

Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, thanked all the supporters and organisers of the initiative and commended the efforts of Her Excellency Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid in coordinating all stakeholders to support the ‘Host Town Programme’. The new initiative aims to give athletes participating in Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 the opportunity to learn more about UAE culture, customs and traditions.

"The Host Town Programme reflects the hospitality and values of the Emirati nation and we look forward to providing the opportunity for all participants and their families to learn more about the true essence of the UAE and its supreme values of unity, tolerance and co-existence. In addition to promoting solidarity amongst all members of society", Al Junaibi said.

The programme will host delegations of athletes, their coaches and families, and allow them to experience the rich culture and history of the UAE ahead of their participation in Special Olympics IX MENA Games, which will take place from 14 to 22 March 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. The Host Town Programme will include visits to tourist sites across the seven emirates of the UAE in addition to providing workshops and speaker opportunities for athletes to share their stories with students.

Over 160 athletes with intellectual disabilities from countries including Burkina Faso, Cote’ Ivoire, Canada, Serendib, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Macau, Chinese Taipei, Monaco, Belgium, Russia and Austria will visit one of the seven emirates to live, eat, and breathe true Emirati life.

Abu Dhabi will be the first city ever to host both the MENA and World Games within a year of each another. Over 1,200 athletes of all abilities will descend upon Abu Dhabi from 14 to 21 March this year to take part in Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018. Athletes will participate in 16 sports, which will be hosted in eight different venues including ADNEC, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, NYUAD, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al Jazira Sports Club and Al Forsan Club.

The MENA Games and World Games are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights the full integration of people with disabilities into society. The Games will be the most ‘unified’ in history and promise to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.

Special Olympics is unique to every other Olympic Games and is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). To be eligible to participate in Special Olympics, athletes must have an intellectual disability; a cognitive delay, or a development disability, that is, functional limitations in both general learning and adaptive skills (they may also have a physical disability).

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About the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi (AD2019)
Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, scheduled for March 8-22, will be the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world, with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches representing more than 170 countries. The World Games will be an unprecedented display of the spirit, joy, courage and skill that are hallmarks of Special Olympics movement. The largest single event ever held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East and North Africa, the World Games features 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in venues throughout Abu Dhabi. The spectacular Opening Ceremony on March 14 is expected to attract 45,000 spectators while being viewed by millions worldwide via global broadcast partners ESPN and Abu Dhabi Media.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the 2019 World Games will be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history, with inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event. The Games are the most visible component of a planned series of initiatives by Abu Dhabi and the UAE to expand opportunity for people with disabilities, and to promote inclusion and understanding throughout the emirate, nation, and region. Plans for operation of the World Games include leaving a legacy of improved health, education, and inclusion that will benefit the UAE long after the event is over.