Special Olympics World Games worth Dh1 billion to local economy, report finds

The 10-day event put the spotlight on the UAE and welcomed more than 18,000 visitors from across the globe

The Special Olympics World Games 2019 was worth almost Dh1 billion to the local economy, a study by independent auditors found.

The 10-day event in March - a dazzling display of inclusivity and overcoming disability - generated Dh957 million in economic output, PwC Middle East said.

Economic output measures the value of all sales of goods and services generated by expenditure in a mega-event.

"The Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi have been a unique catalyst for the inclusion of People of Determination within the UAE society as well as globally," said Laurent Depolla, a partner at PwC Middle East.

"The positive economic contribution from the event resulted from the new event delivery model demonstrated by the Local Organising Committee".

We are humbled and proud of the achievements that the United Arab Emirates demonstrated through these findings

In addition to economic output, PwC found the Gross Value Added generated by the Games was over Dh500 million, with an additional Dh236 million when factoring in-kind contributions through sponsorships and partnerships, state news agency Wam reported on Saturday.

Since it was created in 2017, the organising committee employed 304 staff from 47 nationalities to run the games. The report also revealed 90 per cent of the total procurement expenditure was spent on local suppliers.

The report found the games improved attractiveness for international organisations to consider the UAE as a host for future mega-events. The Special Olympics, footage of which was widely featured at home and abroad, attracted more than half a million spectators, while more than 18,000 people came from overseas for an average 10-day stay.

The findings were revealed at the games' closing higher committee meeting, chaired by Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi.

"We are humbled and proud of the achievements that the United Arab Emirates demonstrated through these findings," Mr Al Junaibi said.

"Through these games, we were able to send a message to the world that the UAE is capable of delivering a mega event of an exceptional and global caliber. But more importantly, we were able to showcase to the world the leadership’s commitment towards empowering people of determination."

Mr Al Junaibi said that “Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, as the patron of the event, strongly believed and drove the vision and noble mission of this event, and what we could achieve as a lasting legacy for People of Determination in the UAE and beyond. His constant involvement in every critical milestone of these Games allowed us to elevate the conversation around People of Determination and enabled us to deliver the largest and most unified Games in the history of the Special Olympics movement."

At the meeting, the leadership team of the organising committee revealed further record-breaking metrics, including delivering on vision of the largest and most unified games since the Special Olympics began in 1968.

More than 7,000 athletes from 200 countries participated and 30 new programmes were added to the Special Olympics movement as a result of the UAE’s diplomatic efforts, while a record of 2,200 athletes without disabilities (32 per cent of athletes) participated in Unified Sports competitions in a record of 15 sports.

During the period of their stay, all athletes were offered free health screenings across seven health disciplines, including dental and podiatry checks, as well as hearing and eye tests. A total of 23,296 screenings were conducted, with 85 per cent of all athletes screened and offered the necessary care where needed.

In addition to the economic impact delivered, extensive awareness campaigns, as well as media partnerships with Abu Dhabi Media, ESPN, Sky News Arabia, and Humans of New York among other organisations delivered Dh254 million in media value impact for the UAE, as well as 6.7 billion social media impressions between March 14-21.
The World Games 2019 also triggered the development of new national government policies and initiatives to empower and promote further inclusion for people with disabilities.

Earlier in March, the Determination Retreat, attended by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, as well as ministers, people of determination, their families and other policy makers culminated in the announcement of 31 national programmes to support people with disabilities in sports, education, employment, health and quality of life.

Organisers also announced the expansion of the Unified Champion Schools programme - Unified sports see people of all abilities play together - across 600 public schools in the UAE, starting in September 2019.