The world’s largest humanitarian sporting event hosted in the Mena region for the first time.
First time in the region
The Special Olympics World Games 2019 is being hosted in Abu Dhabi, making it the first time the competition is hosted in the Middle East and North Africa region since its founding 50 years ago. Special Olympics is the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event and a global movement which focuses on the empowerment of People of Determination with intellectual disabilities through the power of sport.
UAE: A beacon of inclusiveness
> UAE provides year-round sports training and athletic competitions in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. This gives them opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes and the community
> This initiative enabled the UAE athletes to compete in the Special Olympics MENA Games and the upcoming World Games
> Since the 1990s, Special Olympics UAE has participated in 12 MENA and World Games and has more than 5,000 registered athletes and unified partners, in addition to more than 300 coaches
> In 2017, UAE athletes competed in more than 70 events
> Over the years, Special Olympics UAE has taken part in – and hosted – numerous significant events, internationally and regionally
Community horizons need to be improved
Regional Perceptions and ?Determined Aspirations
UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco and Egypt
To provide an understanding of the regional public perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities and an understanding of the lives, aspirations and challenges of people with intellectual disabilities themselves.
Sports on offer
> Beach Volleyball
> Gymnastics (artistic)
> Gymnastics (rhythmic)
> Open Water ?Swimming
> Roller Skating
> Table Tennis
The Local Organising Committee of the Special Olympics World Games 2019 rolled out an extensive community engagement programme to raise awareness, educate and inspire the public with the Special Olympics movement, and encourage tolerance in the community about people with intellectual disabilities.
> Adopt a nation
It engages students with Special Olympics by promoting the study of the values and cultures of the nations competing in World Games 2019. The initiative is designed to engage the whole school, as well as the children who are typically sporty.
> Fans in the stands
It invites entities, schools and partners to attend the Games as a mean of encouragement to the athlete. The schools attend the Games based on the dates associated with their adopted nations competing on the day for support.
> Unified champions
In the spirit of inclusion, celebrities in the entertainment industry and world of sports from around the globe become ambassadors to raise awareness to the important work of Special Olympics.
> Unified sports
Unified Sports joins people with and without intellectual disabilities on the same team. It was inspired by a simple principle: Training and playing together is a quick path to friendship and understanding.
> Walk unified
It aims to bring people together and inspire healthy lifestyles. The UAE has a broader goal to integrate people with intellectual disabilities into social initiatives and walk unified does just that.
1. Sentiments towards people with intellectual disabilities are largely positive through the community’s empathy, but this does not translate into action.
2. A need to broaden community horizons on the potential opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities away from a “special education system”.
3. There is an opportunity for empowering people with intellectual disabilities to improve interpersonal skills and ability to handle difficult situations.
4. Formal education is stronger in the GCC, however, a gap exists in non-Gulf countries in terms of education infrastructure.
5. Gulf countries are paving the way for a more receptive work environment for people with intellectual disabilities.
6. Health facilities are not seen as a major obstacle but there is still room for improvement especially in GCC countries.
7. Inclusion in sports is supported in theory, but in reality it is usually limited in and only within the intellectual disability community.
8. Sports are associated not only with social inclusion, but also with physical well-being and the enhancement of self-esteem.
9. There is an opportunity to improve various facilities in the community that would encourage further inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities.
10. Social media and gamification have been identified as platforms to connect and engage with people with intellectual disabilities.