A series of social initiatives that will establish the legacy of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 have been announced by dignitaries and leading figures from the UAE and Special Olympics.

Speaking as the record-breaking sporting and humanitarian event drew to a close, officials from the Higher Committee and Local Organizing Committee for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 joined Dr Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, to outline how the impact of the Games will be felt by communities across the UAE, the region and beyond for years to come.

Initiatives to engage with the nation’s youth and evolve the values of #BeUnified will see the establishment of Unified Champion Schools, a nationwide program that will pair public school pupils with and without disabilities to take part in sports and other activities.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and CEO, ADNOC Group, announced that the company will evolve its recruitment and employee program to provide people of determination with a range of specialist learning support services at ADNOC schools.

A Mothers of Determination Association will also be formed to meet and support the needs of families of children with intellectual disabilities to allow them to reach their full potential through education and training.

H.E. Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development and Chairman of the Heritage and Society Committee of the Higher Committee to host the Special Olympics, explained how just days before the launch of the Special Olympics, the UAE leader’s launched 31 legislations, initiatives and projects related to serving the aspirations of people of determination in sports, education, health, culture and quality of life.

“The experience of the UAE in the rehabilitation, inclusion and empowerment of people of determination is a source of pride for all of us as it confidently keeps pace with the achievements of the UAE in sustainable development,” said H.E. Hessa.

“The UAE’s wise leadership has given attention to people of determination and enacted laws and legislations that support and fully integrate with global trends of welfare, inclusion and empowerment and at the same time maintain inherited social norms and values.”

Dr Timothy Shriver described the UAE’s contribution to the Special Olympics movement as an incredible moment that will spearhead the drive towards the shared goals of inclusivity and as a major international event that will be remembered for generations.

“As we come to the end of World Games here in UAE, it is the beginning of the next part of our movement’s journey — a journey that started 50 years ago. A journey to a world without discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities,” said Dr Shriver.

“A place where inclusion is fully mainstream. Where all sport is unified sport. Where all schools are unified schools and where the value of full inclusion is the accepted value of the next generation of leaders. Where inclusive health and healthcare is the standard across the world. Where every workforce at every level is an inclusive workforce,” said Dr Shriver.

Looking ahead to 2021, when the Special Olympics World Winter Games will travel to Sweden before arriving in Berlin for the 2023 World Games, Dr Shriver explained how the momentum gained from Abu Dhabi will inspire the athletes and organizers to reach greater levels of achievement.

Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and CEO, ADNOC Group, said hosting the World Games was only the start of the UAE’s vision.

“We have a collective responsibility to ensure there is a tangible and lasting legacy,” said Dr Sultan. “At ADNOC, we are proud to promote and practice a culture of mutual respect. ADNOC has supported and will continue to empower people of determination and their families.

“We will provide opportunities and harness their talents in every aspect. My team and I stand together to provide whatever support is necessary. Together we will work together for a more inclusive world.”

Speaking on the evolution of the Special Olympics UAE national program, Tala Al Ramahi, Chief Strategy Officer of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 and Special Olympics UAE Board Member, explained how the work of Special Olympics will continue for years to come.

“The hard work will not stop after the Games and Special Olympics UAE is committed to partnering with the Ministry of Education to expand the Unified Champions Program to every public school in the UAE.

“The UAE will be the first country to do this on a national scale and would not have been able to do this without their support of the partners who came on board. The future of Special Olympics UAE is a bright one.”

Tala explained how Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, chairwoman of the General Women's Union, president of the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood, and supreme chairwoman of the Family Development Foundation, has directed the establishment of the Mothers of Determination Association.

The mandate of the new organization includes the exchange of expertise and knowledge, the creation of a channel of communication between mothers and the Supreme Council for Motherhood and Childhood in addition to the organization of educational and training workshops for mothers.

Tala was joined on stage by young Emirati golfers Saif Al Qubaisi and Ali Saif Bin Sumidaa. The boys, both 14, expressed their pride at representing the UAE at the Special Olympics and at winning bronze and silver medals respectively.

H.E. Mohamed Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said the impact of the World Games Abu Dhabi was a powerful and empowering catalyst for change that has established the UAE as a global leader for tolerance.

“I am proud to be part of the team that brought success to Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. We worked with a lot of partners including ADNOC and teams of expert people who helped turned the story of Special Olympics into a huge success.

“We launched a lot of activities and initiatives in the build up to the World Games and have shown everyone there is no barrier when it comes to achievement for people with intellectual disabilities,” said H.E. Mohamed.

“Although it’s the end of the World Games, this doesn’t mean it’s the end of the Special Olympics in the UAE.”