With just four days to go until divisioning for the Games begins, the UAE team of 141 athletes has been hard at work at a training camp in Al Ain

12 March 2018, Abu Dhabi: The Special Olympics UAE team, made up of 141 athletes, has been in the final throes of preparations at a training camp in Al Ain ahead of Special Olympics IX MENA Games kicking off. The Games, which are due to officially start on 16th March when divisioning begins, will see over 1,000 athletes from across the world descend upon Abu Dhabi for the world’s biggest humanitarian sporting event.

The Special Olympics UAE team has been busy training twice a day at the camp and met with H.E. Shamma Al Mazrouei, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chair of the Special Olympics UAE Board, today.

H.E. Shamma Al Mazrouei, Minister of State for Youth Affairs and Chair of the Special Olympics UAE Board, said: Since the decision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to reform the Council at the end of 2017, they have taken into consideration the importance of reaching with the UAE Special Olympics Team to take the podiums, and enhance the UAE teams, taking advantage of the country's historic opportunity to host the Special Olympics IX MENA Games Abu Dhabi 2018 and the world's largest sporting and humanitarian event, the Special Olympics World Games in 2019.

H.E expressed her gratitude for the support of the UAE leadership for Special Olympics UAE, which made all participants and athletes keen to represent the UAE and establish its prominent position in various fields to have the UAE flag raised across local regional and global across all podiums.

This week marks the penultimate week before athletes officially begin competing from 18 – 20 March. All athletes participating in the Games will take part in ‘Divisioning’ on 16th March. Divisioning is a process that is a part of every Special Olympics Games and evens out athletes via skill level, ensuring all athletes in competition are similar-ability.

Ahead of the Games, a spectacular torch relay will take place in the UAE’s capital on 14th March before the ‘Flame of Hope’ is carried to ADNEC for the IX MENA Games opening ceremony on 17th March.

As well as the torch relay, 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 from 12 – 14 March for the Host Town Program.

The Host Town Program 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 the IX MENA Games.

IX MENA Games will be open to members of the public and around 25,000 spectators are 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 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)
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.