UAE Games set to challenge stereotypes about intellectual disabilities

Held by Special Olympics UAE and sports councils in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, the event will be held from May 21-22 and June 7-10

A ceremony was held in Abu Dhabi to mark the announcement of the first UAE Games. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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The inaugural UAE Games for People of Determination is set to dispel stereotypes about those with intellectual disabilities.

The event, which is separated into two parts, will also empower students and athletes with intellectual disabilities to fulfil their potential, said an event organiser.

The first segment of the event will see about 400 students competing in the Unified Schools UAE Games, which is being held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) on May 21 and May 22.

That is followed next month by the UAE Games for People of Determination’s Clubs and Centres, which will see the participation of more than 600 athletes in badminton, basketball, bowling, football, e-sports and powerlifting from June 7-10.

“The most important message behind the unified games is that it'll help break stereotypes and bring students together,” Fatma Al Musallami, head of strategy and projects at Special Olympics UAE, told The National.

“It'll move away from academic comparisons in classrooms, and allow students with disabilities to show their talents.

“[It will allow them] to show they are capable of excelling in different sectors and skills, beyond just academics.”

Parents and coaches have already noticed a marked shift in the morale of the athletes, she said.

The Special Olympics World Games was held in Abu Dhabi in 2019, with more than 7,000 athletes from more than 200 nations visiting the emirate.

The Special Olympics movement was set up “to provide year-round sports training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities”.

“We are keen to apply best international practices and provide a platform for athletes with developmental and intellectual challenges to demonstrate their abilities and compete in a positive and empowering environment, that allows them to communicate and form friendships,” said Talal Al Hashemi, national director of Special Olympics UAE and chairman of the UAE Games Organising Committee.

“Additionally, the games will enable Special Olympics UAE to assess athletes’ and use the insights generated for future planning and development plans.”

Updated: May 21, 2024, 4:07 AM