Abu Dhabi, UAE, 13th March 2018: Around 40 schools across Abu Dhabi are eagerly anticipating the arrival of their Special Olympics teams ahead of Special Olympics IX MENA Games.

Local schools have been paired up with participating countries from around the world and will have the chance to cheer on their teams as part of the ‘Fans in the Stand’ initiative which will see students attends the Games, who are participating in the Adopt a Nation program to ensure all Special Olympics teams have hundreds of fans cheering for them across all 16 sports and all eight venues for the Games.

The following schools have been partnered with participating countries and will be on site to cheer on their teams on all three days of the Games:

Abu Dhabi Indian School — Bangladesh
ADNOC School — UAE
Aldar Schools — UAE
Al Raha School — Russia
Al Rawafed Primary — Belgium
Al Nahda Girls — Bahrain
Canadian School — Hong Kong
Global Indian International — Pakistan
BSAK — Cote D’Ivoire
Brighton College — Sri Lanka
Skeikh Zayed Private Academy — Jordan
ICS — Palestine
Al Manhal International — Saudi Arabia
Al Bashair Private — Canada
Al Dhabania School — Philippines
Lycee Louis Massignon — Monaco
Diyafah International — Chinese Tapei
Al Suqoor — Lebanon
Al Ghazali — Egypt
Al Qurm — Syria
Omamah bint al Harity — Morocco
Fatima bint Mubarak — Oman
Al Asayel — Sudan
Al Mowaheb Model School — Iraq
Abu Dhabi Secondary — Libya
Abduljalid al Faheem — Mauritania
Aisha bint Abu Baker — Tunisia
Al Qadeseya — Macau
Al Etihad Model School — Sri Lanka
Khalifa bin Zayed School — Pakistan
Zayed al Thani — Algeria

The Adopt a Nation program is a partnership between the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and almost 40 schools in Abu Dhabi launched last month with the aim to cultivate Special Olympics values such as empathy and inclusion amongst students in the UAE as they learn about intellectual disabilities from a global perspective.

A series of events that facilitate cultural exchange have already begun taking place. Programs such as Play Unified - an initiative based on social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through shared sports training and competitive experiences, have already been introduced in many schools as well as language exchange, teaching each other native songs, recipe sharing, short story competitions and much more.

IX MENA Games will be open to members of the public and free to attend, with around 25,000 spectators expected to visit the Games. Athletes from 31 countries will travel to Abu Dhabi to take part in MENA IX Games, which will be the first major sporting event ahead of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Athletes will take part in 16 different sports that 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.

Special Olympics IX MENA Games and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people of determination into everyday society.

Special Olympics is unique to every other Olympic Games and is recognized 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)
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.