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2019 Special Olympics kick off with celebration hosted by UAE embassy                       

31 January 2019

On Wednesday evening, 30 January 2019, the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in Pretoria hosted a dinner in celebration of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games. The dinner marked the official countdown to 50th anniversary of the upcoming World Games which will be hosted in Abu Dhabi in just 53 days (March 14 -21 2019).

Photo: HE Mahash Saeed Alhameli with Athlete Leader Brightfield Shadi

The celebration, which was attended by Special Olympics African team representatives as well as esteemed international dignitaries, proved to be an exhibition of the true ethos of the Special Olympic World Games of unity through inclusion. The evening was a spectacular blend of African dance, middle eastern food and shared cultural experiences.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 are an integral part of a series of planned initiatives to expand opportunities for people of determination in line with Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s shared vision of a unified and inclusive society.

The Ambassador of the UAE to South Africa, His Excellency Mahash Saeed Alhameli who addressed attendees present at the dinner, noted that the UAE is proud to be the first every country from the Middle East-North Africa region to host the 2019 Special Olympic World Games. Speakers throughout the evening spoke of the unifying power of sports through inclusion, noting that inclusion must take place before and long after the games & must extend every boundary.

The Special Olympics represent the values of tolerance, justice and inclusion, a sentiment which was echoed by Chair of the Special Olympics South Africa, Dr Matthews Phosa. Dr Phosa highlighted the special relationship which exists between the UAE and South Africa, thanking the UAE for what he called the “warm welcome the UAE has extended to all African athletes.” “We don’t say our athletes have disabilities, but rather different abilities – we call them diffabilities,” he added.

Over 8000 athletes from more than 176 nations are gearing up to participate in what will be the world’s biggest sports and humanitarian event in 2019 and the most unified Games in the 50-year history of Special Olympics.  The Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 has announced that 11 new Sub-Saharan African nations have signed up for Special Olympics programs and will be participating in the World Games in March 2019. Special Olympics programs have been newly established in Burundi, Cape Verde, Congo (Brazzaville), Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mozambique, Niger, Chad and South Sudan.

The Games are considered more than a world-class sporting event. They are a catalyst to improve lives, to reach a full collective potential, and to create greater social inclusion for people with and without intellectual disabilities in the UAE, in the region and globally.

UAE Embassy in South Africa



January/February 2020










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