The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Government has declared 2019 as the Year of Tolerance, adding even more significance to the World Games. Having earned a reputation as being one of the safest and most culturally diverse countries in the region, the UAE is keen to show to the world exactly how.

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport. Through programming in sports, health, education and community building, Special Olympics is tackling the inactivity, stigma, isolation, and injustice that people with intellectual disabilities face.

The work that Special Olympics does goes far beyond sports events; driving social change that enables full social participation for people with intellectual disabilities. Today, Special Olympics GB serves 10,000 athletes and 4,000 volunteers in 140 clubs across Great Britain.

Spreading the message

Identified as a flagship event during the Year of Tolerance and a significant platform for creating positive social change, the Special Olympics World Games, which will be held for the first time in the Middle East, will play a key role in spreading this message globally.

The UAE has been at the forefront of a large-scale initiative to encourage and support the development of Special Olympics in international locations where programmes did not previously exist, broadening access to dedicated training and opportunities to showcase talent for people with intellectual disabilities.

In the UAE, the terms ‘disability’ and ‘special needs’ have been replaced with ‘People of Determination’. The change in terminology is in line with the UAE’s ‘National Policy for Empowering People with Special Needs’ and is a key move towards recognising the achievements of ‘People of Determination’ and the important role they can play throughout UAE society.

The event is designed to act as a catalyst for inclusion, building a lasting legacy of improved health, education, and opportunities for people with intellectual disabilities long after the Closing Ceremony.

The Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event taking place in the world this year and Special Olympics GB will be sending a team of 129 athletes. Over 7,500 athletes from nearly 200 countries will take part, including the most women to ever compete in the Games’ history.

“Meet the Determined” is the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019’s message to the world, inviting people to celebrate the abilities of People of Determination and aims to change perceptions of intellectual disabilities by highlighting stories of courage and the determination of Special Olympics athletes.

Watch out for…

Ella Curtis Ella, from Bradford, will be in year 11 when she competes in Abu Dhabi. She is a cyclist and joined the Special Olympics GB team in 2016 – she has won a silver SOGB medal and two fourth-place ribbons at the Cycling National Games, Sheffield in 2017.

Ella says: “I have taken ownership of my own training and can manage my own turbo spin sessions. I’ve made cycling and healthy lifestyle choices a part of my daily routine because I have a target of the Games and an identity as an athlete.”

Get involved

For more information about Special Olympics or to get involved, see: