Butti al Sheezawi will represent the region at this weekend’s star-studded event

February 15, 2018, ABU DHABI: A UAE Special Olympics athlete will represent the Middle East this weekend at NBA’s most high-profile and star-studded event of the year.

Butti al Sheezawi will take to the court at the NBA All-Star weekend in Los Angeles surrounded by some of the most famous names in basketball including LeBron James and Stephen Curry.

Al Sheezawi is flying into LA as part of a program between Special Olympics and NBA Cares, the league’s global social responsibility program, to promote Unified Sports — an initiative around social inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities through shared sports training and competitive experiences.

Al Sheezawi will also participate in the NBA Cares Special Olympics Unified Basketball Game, supported by Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, UAE Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chair of the Special Olympics UAE board. The game will take place at Los Angeles Convention Center on Saturday and Al Sheezawi will play alongside fellow Special Olympics athletes from around the world, including Kenya, Serbia, the U.S. and Germany, as well as NBA legends and current WNBA players.

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Speaking ahead of his trip, Al Sheezawi said: “I am delighted to represent my country and the Middle East at the NBA All-Star weekend and to participate in this famous American sport alongside other Special Olympics athletes and players with intellectual disabilities (ID) from around the world. I can’t wait to meet all the famous players, especially Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neill who are my heroes.

“I am very proud to be an ambassador for the UAE at this international event as I prepare to represent my country at the IX MENA Games and hopefully win the gold medal.”

Al Sheezawi, 31, will represent the UAE next month at Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 in Abu Dhabi and again at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. He previously represented the UAE at the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games.

Born in the UAE, Al Sheezawi’s parents noticed at a young age that he enjoyed watching basketball on TV. By the age of 12 and encouraged by a teacher he started playing the sport and by the time he was 15 turned professional.

Her Excellency Shamma Bint Suhail Al Mazrouei, said: "Special Olympics is dedicated to promoting inclusion and empowerment through sports and the Unified Sports program epitomizes these values. We are incredibly proud of Butti and cannot wait to watch his dreams unfold on the court this weekend as he represents Special Olympics UAE and promotes tolerance and unity on a global stage.

“Unified Sports gives those with intellectual disabilities the chance to play alongside those without intellectual disabilities, in turn breaking down stereotypes and empowering people with and without intellectual disabilities.”

The NBA All-Star weekend is a hotbed for celebrities and Al Sheezawi will rub shoulders with Hollywood and sporting greats on Friday night as he watches the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game, featuring amongst others: actor Jamie Foxx, rapper Common, sprinter Andre De Grasse, golfer Bubba Watson, boxer Terence Crawford and NBA legend Tracy McGrady.

Al Sheezawi and his fellow Special Olympics athletes will then watch the iconic Slam Dunk competition, Three-Point Contest and Skills Challenge on Saturday night before enjoying the main event on Sunday - the 67th NBA All-Star Game, captained by the two biggest names currently in the sport - Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James and Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry.

Special Olympics IX MENA Games from 14-22 March 2018 in Abu Dhabi will act as a signature event for the capital as Abu Dhabi prepares to host the World Games in 2019, the world's largest human and sporting event for people with intellectual disabilities. The Games will act as a catalyst to change lives and all of the preparation and events that are happening ahead of them will serve as key factors in improving the lives of those with intellectual disabilities across the Middle East.

More than 1,000 athletes from 32 countries will travel to Abu Dhabi to take part in MENA IX Games 2018, March 14 – 22, which will be the first major sporting event of the Abu Dhabi Prepares series of events leading into the 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.

Held under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will see the biggest humanitarian sporting event in the world coming to the Emirati Capital, marking its first debut in the history of the MENA region.

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.

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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.