Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1246, (14 - 20 May 2015)

Ahram Weekly

It’s an honour

For the first time, a Special Olympics Executive Committee meeting will be held outside the US – and the city chosen for the distinction is Cairo. Abeer Anwar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Ayman Abdel-Wahab, president and managing director of Special Olympics of the Middle East and North Africa (SO MENA), has reached an agreement to hold the next SO Executive Committee meetings in Cairo. It will be the first time an SO Executive Committee is held outside the US since the founding of the movement in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

Shriver is the sister of former US president John F. Kennedy and senators Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organisation for children and adults with intellectual disabilities, providing year-round training and competitions to more than 4.4 million athletes in 170 countries.

“The decision was taken in recognition of the progress made in the MENA region and all its programmes throughout the past 15 years,” Abdel-Wahab said after his return from the Executive Committee meetings held at SO headquarters in Washington DC.

“In addition, all attendees really appreciated the efforts done to increase the number of athletes to reach out to the greatest number of the intellectually disabled especially in such political tensions and wars going on throughout the MENA region. We have had disruptions, revolutions, wars and tension affect almost all the programmes of the MENA region but in spite of this, we were able to attain our target and achieve our goal,” Abdel-Wahab said, adding that his offer to host the meetings in Cairo was appreciated by everyone especially after the importance Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi had shown to the SO by attending the 8th SO MENA Regional Games in Cairo. “He gave an example to be followed by other presidents and leaders all around the world,” Abdel-Wahab said.

In addition, the SO MENA calendar was full as Special Olympics leaders from the Middle East-North Africa region reviewed major accomplishments of the last year and discussed key issues at the Regional Advisory Council meeting held in Marrakesh, Morocco. It was attended by Abdel-Wahab, Regional Advisory Council members and other programme leaders from the MENA region.

At the outset of the meeting, the highlights of last year’s achievements were summarised including the major sports event that took place in Cairo, the Special Olympics MENA Regional Games.

The meeting also reviewed the region’s executive plan of activities for 2015, such as the Special Olympic Unified Football Cup qualifiers, the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games and other regional forums and training seminars. Attendees also discussed a number of prominent issues including partnership development and fundraising. The development of the next Special Olympics strategic plan for 2016-2020 was briefly discussed. All programme leaders shared their vision and strategic priorities for the upcoming period. The meeting was deemed by officials as fruitful and yielded a number of recommendations.

For the first time, SO Bahrain participated in the Formula One three-day event in Bahrain. Special Olympics Bahrain athletes were invited to attend the most popular annual car race in the world held on the Bahrain International Circuit as 2015 Formula One kicked off. The Formula One event this year was special with the presence of the Special Olympics athletes, who were excited and had great fun. It was attended by celebrities and singers from the Middle East. The Special Olympics athletes took photos with the cars, Formula One stars and celebrities, enjoying the wonderful mix of racing, entertainment and plenty of action all weekend.

In the circle of inclusion, all SO MENA regional staff headed by Abdel-Wahab are to celebrate the countdown for the 2015 SO World Summer Games, now 71 days and counting. Taking place in Los Angeles from 25 July - 3 August, the tournament will include 177 countries with 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches along with 30,000 volunteers and around 500,000 spectators, the largest sports and humanitarian event anywhere in the world this year.

SO athletes come together every two years to compete at the Special Olympics World Games. This summer, Los Angeles will show the true meaning of courage, joy and determination.

Athletes will be competing in 25 sports at venues throughout Los Angeles, including USC and UCLA. Special Olympics World Games Los Angeles 2015 (LA2015) will be a milestone event of a long-lasting movement, founded in 1968 by Shriver to create a world that is not dominated by those who are excluded but by those who are included. The biennial World Games are the flagship event of the Special Olympics Movement, and this summer, the world’s largest sports and humanitarian event will come to the world capital for media and entertainment and the single biggest event in Los Angeles since the 1984 Olympic Games.

The event, with the unparalleled spirit, enthusiasm, teamwork, joy and displays of courage and skill that are hallmarks of all Special Olympics tournaments, will feature 25 Olympic-style sports in venues throughout the Los Angeles area. The opening ceremony, to be held 25 July in the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, site of the 1932 and 1984 Olympic Games, is expected to attract 80,000 spectators.

Special Olympics Egypt will participate with 68 athletes in 12 sports: aquatics, bocci, equestrian, soccer, athletics, tennis, table tennis, basketball, bowling, badminton, handball and weightlifting.

Amal Mobada, SO Egypt national director: “Our special-talented athletes are training on a daily basis and doing their best to shine there in Los Angeles and show the whole world that Egyptians are capable of doing the impossible.

“Egypt will also be present in all the events that will accompany the Games such as the Healthy Athletes, Young Athletes, the families and motor activity training programmes.”

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