Abu Dhabi is to host the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa Regional Games in March 2018, it was announced in Monday, with more than 1,200 athletes expected to take part.
The event is for competitors with special needs and disabilities and will take place ahead of the UAE capital's hosting of the The Special Olympics World Games in 2019.
Registration opens this month and closes on November 15.
Athletes from the MENA region and 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.
“We are looking forward to welcoming thousands of athletes from across the world to participate in the MENA Regional Games 2018," said Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games.
"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.”
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.
Organisers said 184 Emirati athletes with learning or cognitive disabilities are gearing up to compete across the 16 sports.
Last year, the Special Olympics Board of Directors in Washington DC unanimously choose Abu Dhabi to host the games in 2019.