In just 10 days, athletes from across the world will converge in Abu Dhabi to compete in the region’s largest event for people with intellectual disabilities, the Special Olympics IX Mena Games.
The event precedes the Special Olympics World Games which will be the hosted in the Middle East and North Africa for the first time, in March next year, since being founded almost 50 years ago.
The country’s Rulers have been active in their support for the world’s largest sports humanitarian event for people with developmental disabilities by participating in walks to promote inclusion and encourage volunteer work.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, each took part in Walk Unified, an initiative launched by the higher committee of the Special Olympics.
The walks have been held over the past few weeks in Ajman, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah. These have been attended by Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, Crown Prince of Ajman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Salem Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and Sheikh Mohammed bin Saud Al Qasimi, Crown Prince of Ras Al Khaimah.
The aim behind hosting the Special Olympics in the UAE is to empower people with intellectual disabilities and ensure them that they are part of the country’s growth.
UAE companies have registered their support by tying in corporate social responsibility programmes to ensure their organisations are involved in a global movement to create real change.
“The Special Olympics gives people of determination the opportunity to prove themselves and demonstrate their ambition, optimism and courage on a global stage,” said Dr Sultan Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State and group chief executive of Adnoc.
“Our partnership supports the well-being and welfare of the communities which we serve through activities that create a sustainable and positive impact on society.”
Telecom operator Etisalat will manage communication operations at the sites of the Mena Special Olympics and World Games next year in Abu Dhabi.
“In addition to making it easier for international athletes to stay in touch with their families and friends around the world, we will also leverage our network capabilities to ensure smooth connectivity and fast internet access to the public during the games,” said Saleh Al Abdooli, Etisalat chief executive.
Etihad Airways backed their employees’ volunteering efforts and helped transport athletes and equipment to Abu Dhabi.
Homaid Al Shimmari, deputy group chief executive of Mubadala, congratulated the athletes and said the games would break down any barriers facing people with disabilities.
Mohammed Al Junaibi, chairman of the Higher Committee for hosting the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said the key message was to address misconceptions.
“Committing to supporting the games means committing to inclusion for all. The allocation of social responsibility programs represents a major boost to the integration of people of determination into society,” he said referring to support from government and private companies.
“We believe it will help change the perception of people with intellectual disabilities and enable them to contribute to building a better future. It will fundamentally change the organizational DNA of entities that engage in these efforts with us.”
Opportunities were still available for local, regional and international companies to create social responsibility programs through partnerships with the Special Olympics Committee, Mr Al Junaibi said.
As a founding partner of the Special Olympics, Coca-Cola has committed the past 48 years to reinforcing the message of sport transforming lives, said Murat Ozgel, general manager of the Coca-Cola Company Middle East.
“We are honoured to continue our legacy in raising awareness, advocacy and action to Special Olympics.”