Friday,15 December, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013
Friday,15 December, 2017
Issue 1134, 7 - 13 February 2013

Ahram Weekly

Glittering gold

Egypt’s mentally disabled athletes collected four medals in the 10th Special Olympics World Winter Games in South Korea, Abeer Anwar reports

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Al-Ahram Weekly

Yongpyong Dome was the venue of the opening ceremony of the Games which included the participation of the Special Olympics (SO) Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region athletes. The United Arab Emirate’s Khalifa Al-Amri and Egypt’s Abdel-Hadi Abu Sabeeh held up the cauldron and the flag of the Games. “It is a great honour bestowed on the SO MENA region to have our athletes selected by the Games’ Organising Committee to take part in the opening ceremony,” said Ayman Abdel-Wahab, president and regional director of the SO MENA region.“Such Games have a great impact on the athletes as it showcases the life-changing power of sport,” Abdel-Wahab added.
In his address in the opening ceremony, Tim Shriver, SO chairman and CEO, issued SO MENA a special thanks for being able to participate in the Winter Games despite the unrest most countries of the region are suffering from, considering it “a new challenge in itself that shows the power practicing sports can have on the world.”
Accompanying the SO MENA delegation to South Korea is Egyptian film star Hussein Fahmi, who is the current SO MENA goodwill ambassador.
More than 100 delegations from around the world participated in the ceremonial parade of athletes in front of a capacity crowd, as they prepared for the Korean “Dream Chorus” themed ceremony which depicted a Korean-culturally inspired beautiful dream of humanity towards co-existence and harmony. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak and President-elect Park Geun-hye, who will become the country’s first female president, were both in attendance to welcome the more than 3,000 athletes and delegates from 106 nations which followed in alphabetical order. South Korea was at the tail end of the parade with 247 athletes and officials. Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, provided video remarks saying the Special Olympics World Winter Games “will advance dignity and opportunity of all.”  Protocol elements such as the torch lighting, reciting of the Special Olympics athlete oath, and official declaration of the Games opening all took place amidst an igloo and snowflake-shaped stage depicted to represent PyeongChang.
Emphasising the 2013 Special Olympics World Winter Games official theme ‘Together We Can’ Shriver said, “We issue a challenge to the world tonight to hear the voices of people with intellectual disabilities and end fear and stigma. Together, we can end discrimination. Together, we can change the world. Together, we will.” The 2013 PyeongChang Special Olympics World Winter Games were held from 29 January to 5 February, featuring seven categories of sports including alpine skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snow shoeing, speed skating, figure skating, floor hockey, and floorball, a demo sport.
“Special Olympics Egypt has faced a number of financial problems but it ended up by signing a protocol with Masr Al-Kheir association which provided us with the money to take part in the Winter Games,” Amal Mobada , SO Egypt national director, said. “It was a dream for all athletes that came true.”
The event brought athletes with intellectual disabilities to centre stage during its eight-day run, giving each one of them a “moment to shine,” Mobada added.
Egypt won three gold and one bronze medal. Egypt was represented by two teams: snowshoeing and floor hockey. The hockey team was a mix of able and mentally handicapped players. The Egyptian team won the gold medal after passing Azerbaijan in their group to win the gold medal in spite of the injury of three players due to the toughness of the opposition in the final match.
In snowshoeing Egypt’s Aya Hussein and Hussein Ibrahim garnered two gold and one bronze to raise Egypt’s total to four. Ibrahim won two gold in the 200m and 400m while teammate Hussein came third in the 200m.
Commenting on the Games, Abdel-Wahab was upbeat despite the political upheavals the region was facing. “In spite of all the crisis we are facing as a MENA region I am very proud that 18 programmes representing 18 countries were able to make it to the Games. “I would like to praise all the athletes who came here for the challenges despite their adversities. I hope this event makes everyone united around the feeling that we need to work together to make this world a better place.”
Unlike the Paralympics where physically disabled athletes compete at the elite level, the SO event focused on encouraging participation. There are no medal tallies for participants. The top three finishers in each event are still awarded medals but all finalists receive ribbons.

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