The Special Olympics New Zealand team is the first full delegation to arrive in the UAE ahead of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 kicking off in less than 10 days.

Touching down at 5:35am this morning (Tuesday 5 March), all members of the delegation, including the athletes, coaches, heads of delegation and medical support staff, were given a warm welcome at Abu Dhabi International Airport by Peter Wheeler, CEO of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, the two official Games mascots – Faris and Rabdan and Etihad Airways staff. A formal welcome was held with Kapa Haka performers singing a welcome song and dancing with a Taiaha (wooden spear). Thanking them for their arrival, the New Zealand delegation then responded by performing the Haka back. Haka is a traditional ceremonial dance in New Zealand.

The New Zealand athletes will be competing in eight sports competitions including athletics, swimming, bocce, equestrian, basketball, bowling, powerlifting and football.

More than 190 other participating nations will start to arrive in Abu Dhabi and Dubai ahead of the Host Town Program for the World Games, which begins on 8 March.

Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 will see more than 7,500 athletes from over 190 nations compete from 14-21 March. The athletes will compete in 24 Olympic-style sports in nine venues across Dubai and Abu Dhabi in what will be the largest sports and humanitarian event of the year.