Special Olympics athletes land in Dubai

Thousands of competitors set to be treated to cultural tours of the Emirates

Special Olympics torch runners reach Umm Al Quwain on the third day of an Emirates-wide tour ahead of the Games. Antonie Robertson / The National  
Special Olympics torch runners reach Umm Al Quwain on the third day of an Emirates-wide tour ahead of the Games. Antonie Robertson / The National  

Hundreds of Special Olympics athletes have landed in Dubai in one of the largest cultural and social programmes yet carried out in the Middle East and North Africa.

In the days leading up to the historic Games, all seven emirates will treat competitors to several days of unrivalled Emirati hospitality.

Known as the Host Town programme, athletes arriving in the UAE from around the world will be given cultural tours of well-known landmarks.

The excursions will then end with a dazzling ceremony before competitors return to Abu Dhabi to prepare for the start of the Special Olympics.

“The government of Dubai has combined all its resources to make sure we have a successful event before the onset of the Games,” said Dr Amna Al Mazmi, director of policy and strategy at the Executive Council of Dubai.

“Yes, we are doing our duty as the government of Dubai. However, this is a cause that is close to our hearts and one that we are wholeheartedly committed to.

“We are so excited. We have put together a comprehensive programme with a variety of events.”

Organisers recruited thousands of volunteers to help with the event to ensure that it runs smoothly.

The authorities also hope the Games will act as a catalyst for job creation, as well as providing a focus to improving the lives of those with disabilities.

Prior to the Games’ start, Dubai will host thousands of the athletes who will take part in the sporting spectacle.

In total, 197 delegations are arriving in the UAE, with Dubai playing host to more than 50 national squads.

The city’s programme will include visits to tourist attractions Dubai Parks and Resorts, Dubai Frame and Dubai Glow Garden before concluding on March 10 at Global Village.

Alongside the Host Town programme, officials are also running the Adopt a Nation initiative.

Athletes will visit academic institutions across the country, with more than 35 schools in Dubai having spent months preparing for their visitors.

“The Host Town programme is extremely important for athletes,” said Maryam Al Obaid, a policy adviser at the Executive Council.

“Many of them have never been out of their country

so this is an important opportunity for the athletes to get exposed to the culture of the UAE.

“We have prepared ourselves as much as possible to ensure that the groups feel settled. We consider it part of our contribution to the UAE and commitment to people of determination to ensure that we are an inclusive city,” Ms Al Obaid said.

During the Games, Dubai will host swimming events at the Hamdan Sports complex and athletics at the Police Officers Club.

“The legacy [of the host town] is what we keep in people’s minds and hearts and what they take back home,” Ms Al Obaid said.

“It is about the memory we have managed to instil in the guests and what they will say about Dubai and the UAE once they get back to their home countries.”

“People of determination have a strong will to face challenges and turn them into opportunities,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai.

“Their decision to compete in sports events shows their strong will and determination, which is something that deserves praise.

“These heroes are role models for achieving the highest success through determination and persistence,” Sheikh Mohammed said.

Updated: March 6, 2019 10:15 PM


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