Some of the most iconic managers, coaches and athletes in the world – including Pep Guardiola and Gareth Southgate – have come together to deliver the ultimate team talk ahead of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. The cast of sporting superstars shine a light on intellectual disability and highlight even those we now deem to be invincible have had to overcome their own challenges.

Titled the ‘Rallying Cry’, the film precedes Special Olympics GB’s departure to Abu Dhabi, where the 128-strong squad will compete in 17 Olympic style sports. They fly from Heathrow on Friday 8 March and the World Games runs from 14-21 March. It will be the largest sports and humanitarian event taking place in the world this year. Over 7,500 athletes from nearly 200 countries will take part.

The film focuses on Special Olympics athletes and features a star-studded line-up of sporting stars each reading lines from Walter D. Wintle’s rousing poem ‘The Man Who Thinks He Can’. The full cast features football legend and Manchester City FC manager, Pep Guardiola; England football manager, Gareth Southgate; Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists, Jade JonesEllie Simmonds and David Weir; Olympic figure skater and Special Olympics board member, Michelle Kwan; former Cruiserweight World Champion, David Haye; and former England and Arsenal footballer, Alex Scott

Ellie Simmonds, five-time Paralympics gold medallist and Rallying Cry participant, said: “Sport has transformed the way I see the world and the way that the world sees me. It’s obviously my profession, but it’s also so much more than that – helping to define and shape who I am today. I was only 13 when I went to my first Paralympic Games and it introduced me to new friends, new experiences and new cultures. The athletes heading to Abu Dhabi for the World Games have this all to look forward to and I know just how excited they’ll be. And, while I wish them all good luck, I’m obviously rooting for everyone in the GB Team!” 

Kiera Byland, cyclist and one of the 128 GB athletes competing at the World Games, added: “The Special Olympics has been life-changing for me because I experienced bullying in my school. All I wanted was friends, but other people thought it was fun to pick on me all day. I felt vulnerable and would hide in the toilets. I desperately wanted to get into sports – but I wasn’t very good at anything that needed hand-eye coordination as I have dyspraxia and I struggle with balance.

“The biggest thing the Special Olympics has done for me is to give me a platform to have confidence and to make friends. I’m part of a global family, and each of us within that family has been given a voice. We feel valued.”

Khalfan Al Mazrouei, MD of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “The World Games in Abu Dhabi is a way of working together towards a common goal of promoting global awareness about the importance of inclusion and tolerance for people with intellectual disabilities. It’s great to see these prominent sporting leaders showcasing what it is to be part of a truly unified team and encouraging everyone to join our movement. Abu Dhabi will shortly welcome thousands of athletes and the World Games and we cannot wait to showcase the world and humanity at its brilliant best.”

Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, concluded: “We are grateful for the tremendous support these sporting heroes have given us to help celebrate and raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. I’m proud to be a part of an amazing movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport for people with intellectual disabilities. The Rallying Cry video symbolizes the continuation and evolution of the Special Olympics mission – to tackle the inactivity, stigma, isolation, and injustice that people with intellectual disabilities face.

The full film can be viewed on the following channels:

About Special Olympics: 

For 50 years, Special Olympics has become well-known as a sports program. For the five million people with intellectual disabilities we have served in more than 170 countries around the world, involvement in sport has had a profound impact on their lives –improving health and physical well-being, building confidence and self-esteem, and giving them a voice to become active and productive members of their communities. In society as a whole, those experiences have also become a gateway toward breaking down barriers, improving public health, changing attitudes in education, transforming political leadership, and helping athletes overcome the prejudice that people with intellectual disabilities face in too many places.

In a few months, we have a unique opportunity to make a huge stride forward in bringing the world together thorough the beautiful example of acceptance and love our athletes show every day. This occasion is the Special Olympics World Games being hosted in Abu Dhabi in March 2019 and for the first time in the Middle East. These Games will be the largest sports and humanitarian event on the planet next year and the largest event ever held in the UAE. The Games will welcome more than 7,500 athletes from 192 nations around the world and be supported by a record 20,000 volunteers while cheered on by 500,000 spectators and millions of fans around the world. What is more, they will also be the most unified Games ever held, with people with intellectual disabilities involved in every aspect of the event.