40% of the athletes participating in the upcoming Games will be female

11 March 2018, Abu Dhabi: Special Olympics IX MENA Games Abu Dhabi 2018 will welcome a record number of female athletes who are due to participate in the Games which will kick off in just three days.

The UAE will see over 429 female athletes and 168 female trainers from 31 countries participating in 16 sports throughout the Games.

The Special Olympics UAE team will be formed of a total of 180 athletes, with almost 64 (36 per cent) of those being female. Women will participate in 16 sports, including athletics, swimming, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, power lifting, tennis, table tennis, roller skating, handball and volleyball.

The MENA region has witnessed a huge number of female participants in regional Special Olympics Games. In the seventh edition of the MENA Games in 2010, Damascus saw 305 female players take part and 215 female players attended the eighth edition in Cairo.

Breakdown of females participating in specific sports:

  • Athletics: 70
  • Swimming: 44
  • Badminton: 32
  • Basketball: 90
  • Bocce: 34
  • Bowling: 25
  • Cycling: 27
  • Roller skating: 17
  • Tennis: 15
  • Table Tennis: 28
  • Power Lifting: 18
  • Gymnastics: 16
  • Equestrian: 13

Emirati Football Coach, Houriya Taheri, was the first Arab female to receive a professional coaching licence and is the current UAE Women’s National Football Team Coach. Houriya recently became an ambassador for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. She comments: “I learnt about Special Olympics when the MENA team asked me to play in Egypt with players with intellectual disabilities. I went and had no idea what kind of disabilities they had but it was a new and amazing experience. Now that Special Olympics is coming to Abu Dhabi, we all need to understand the importance of getting involved. As a developed country, everyone should be behind this. People with intellectual disabilities are achieving so much and they should be recognized and supported. We as women have this beautiful opportunity to play for our country and for ourselves. Despite all the stereotypes and old family traditions, we can still be part of positive change.”

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 World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will be the most ‘unified’ games in history and promise to offer an inclusive experience for those with and without intellectual disabilities.

More than 1,000 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.

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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.