• The 2018 MENA Regional Games will take place from 17 – 22 March 2018
  • Over 1200 athletes from 33 different countries will participate across 16 sports
  • The 2018 MENA Regional Games is the first major sporting event ahead of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019
  • Registration for the Regional Games opens this month

UAE, Abu Dhabi, 11th September 2017: The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 committee has announced that the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games will take place in March 2018. From 17 – 22 March 2018, over 1200 athletes from 33 different countries will descend upon Abu Dhabi for the Regional Games; the first major sporting event ahead of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Registration for the Regional Games opens this month and closes on 15th November 2017. Athletes from the MENA region as well as international athletes from Canada, Russia, Monaco, Belgium, Austria, Chinese Taipei, Macau, Hong Kong, China, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Samoa, Bangladesh, Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso will be invited to participate in the Regional Games.

His Excellency Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “We are looking forward to welcoming thousands of athletes from across the world to participate in the MENA Regional Games 2018. This will be the UAE’s first opportunity to spread our message of inclusivity, tolerance and philanthropy. The MENA Regional Games are just the beginning for us as we look to empower our athletes and people of all abilities and disabilities across the UAE and the region.”

Ayman Abdel Wahab, President & Managing Director of Special Olympics MENA, said:

"With the 2018 Special Olympics MENA Regional Games just around the corner, this is a huge opportunity for Abu Dhabi to revolutionise the way in which people with intellectual difficulties are perceived in this region. As we celebrate 50 years of the Special Olympics this year, there is a huge focus on pushing the values that many of us share with the Special Olympics; inclusion, tolerance, acceptance and combating injustice within the MENA region, driven by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. This is a great chance for all of us in this region to understand and dedicate ourselves more to these values. We will be forging harmonious relationships with leaders and governments across the world and we will play a key role in bringing together the leaders of tomorrow in support of a better world.”

Athletes will compete in sports including athletics, aquatics, badminton, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, equestrian, football, gymnastics, handball, powerlifting, table tennis, tennis, roller skating and, volleyball.

With just over six months to go until the Regional Games commence in Abu Dhabi, 184 Emirati athletes with intellectual disabilities are busy gearing up to compete across the 16 sports. Watch them in action, here:

Abu Dhabi will become the first city in the Middle East to host the prestigious Special Olympics World Games. The event is set to draw in more than 7,000 athletes from 170 nations, making it the world’s largest sporting and humanitarian event of the year.

The MENA Regional and World Games are a part of the UAE’s National Vision 2021 that highlights full integration of people with disabilities into everyday society.

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About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. The Special Olympics World Games take place every two years and alternate between Summer and Winter Games. Special Olympics athletes can compete in 32 Olympic-style summer or winter sports. The athletes are adults and children with intellectual disabilities who can range from gifted world-class competitors to those with limited physical abilities. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.7 million athletes, including more than 726,000 Unified partners through 233 Programs in 172 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including the Christmas Records Trust, the Law Enforcement Torch Run® for Special Olympics, The Coca-Cola Company, The Walt Disney Company and ESPN, Microsoft, Lions Clubs International, Toys"R"Us, Mattel, P&G, Bank of America, Essilor Vision Foundation, the B. Thomas Golisano Foundation, Finish Line and Safilo Group.