29 April 2018, Abu Dhabi: LOC of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and organizers of the Austrian Winter Games held a roundtable discussion to highlight key learnings and the next steps of their work collaboration.

The roundtable was attended by H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development and Member of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, H.E. Abdulla Al Humaidan, Secretary General of Zayed Higher Organization, Dr. Maha Barakat, Higher Committee Member of the Special Olympics World Games 2019, Peter Wheeler, CEO of the Special Olympics World Games 2019, in addition to high-level representatives and policy makers in healthcare and education, along with subject matter experts and NGO representatives from both countries.

The roundtable was attended by H.E. Dr. Mugheer Khamis Al Khaili, Chairman of the Department of Community Development and Member of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, H.E. Abdulla Al Humaidan, Secretary General of Zayed Higher Organization, Dr. Maha Barakat, Higher Committee Member of the Special Olympics World Games 2019, Peter Wheeler, CEO of the Special Olympics World Games 2019, in addition to high-level representatives and policy makers in healthcare and education, along with subject matter experts and NGO representatives from both countries.

HE. Dr. Mugheer Al Khaili highlighted that the Department of Community Devel-opment is working with various stakeholders to develop a comprehensive stra-tegic plan to empower people with intellectual disabilities in Abu Dhabi.

At the roundtable, Kira Grünberg, Austrian Member of Parliament and a Disabilities advocate, stressed the need to actively include people with disabilities in policy making and projects concerning them and highlighted the importance of having people with disabilities represented across all facets of society, including, but not limited to sports.

Austria officially handed over the Special Olympics flag to the UAE last year at the Closing Ceremony in Graz after hosting the World Winter Games 2017. Shortly after, both countries signed a partnership agreement in the presence of H.H. Sheikh Nahyan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan Charitable and Humanitarian Foundation and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, ensuring they work together to ad-vance the social impact of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, thus continuing to create a more inclusive environment for all.

“The Special Olympics World Winter Games held in the State of Styria in Austria, was a huge success. This partnership will enable us to share critical information and expertise ahead of our own World Games in Abu Dhabi next year. We are working together towards a common goal of promoting global awareness about the importance of inclusion and tolerance for people of determination, and this target becomes more achievable through our partnership with Special Olympics Austria.” Said, Peter Wheeler, CEO of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2019.

Markus Pichler, Managing Director of the Special Olympics Winter World Games Austria, thanked the UAE for organizing this fruitful visit and highlighted the importance of the growing partnership between the two countries, to help stage a successful Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and hoped that UAE keeps on taking these important steps to increase global awareness of inclusion and tolerance towards people of determination

Part of the growing partnership between the two countries, a joined training program, for the respective Special Olympics football teams of both countries will take place this year. Players from each side will train together first in Austria in September and then in Abu Dhabi in December after the return of Special Olympics UAE football team from their participation in the first ever Unified Football World Cup, that will take place in Chicago, USA in July 2018.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, will be the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event ever held in the Middle East and North Africa, in March next year.

This will be once in a generation opportunity to host around 7000 athletes, with and without Intellectual Disabilities (ID), from more than 170 countries around the world, to celebrate inclusion and togetherness in the capital of the UAE and will be the most unified Special Olympics competition in history and the largest single event ever held in the country featuring 24 officially sanctioned Olympic-style sports in 10 venues across Abu Dhabi.

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About the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi (AD2019)
The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, scheduled for March 14-21, 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 of determination (with intellectual 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.