In November last year the Special Olympics international board of directors announced it had chosen Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, to host the World Summer Games in March 2019. The board unanimously voted to award the World Games to Abu Dhabi based on a comprehensive bid proposal, a site visit by a board committee, and the country’s vision to create inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities. On Saturday 21 January, Abu Dhabi organisers will hold an international press conference showing how ready they are.
Ayman Abdel-Wahab, SO Middle East and North Africa (MENA) president and managing director, presented the case for Abu Dhabi at November’s meeting of the Special Olympics board of directors.
The board members’vision was that the UAE is in Asia, the Middle East and close to Africa, so the Games are expected to have a very broad benefit. “Having the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi is revolutionary for our movement and for the Middle East region,” Timothy Shriver, Special Olympics chairman, said at the time.
Saturday’s press conference detailing the event and including journalists from the world over will be held by Abu Dhabi organisers who will show, two years in advance, how well prepared they are to host the event which will see 7,000 players representing 177 countries competing in 27 sports.
“I was seriously thinking of quitting after 16 years of hard work but when my resignation was rejected I thought I have to help in doing something big for the region,” Abdel-Wahab recently told the media. “Hosting the World Games in the MENA region has been a dream and one of my greatest goals and we are ready to start turning the dream into reality. We have the means, the desire, the motivation and spirit to host the 2019 World Games.”
Abdel-Wahab said he was happy for the MENA region winning the bid for the 2019 Games. “At first Egypt was supposed to bid for the event but because of the economic problems the country is facing Abu Dhabi decided to go ahead. The idea was appreciated and backed by UAE President Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed. It will undoubtedly be a life-changing event to raise awareness, break down stereotypes and a great tool to create an inclusive community,”Abdel-Wahab said.
Abdel-Wahab added he was sure that the Abu Dhabi 2019 World Summer Games would be a “marvellous event that won’t be forgotten for years as all the facilities for the event are available and ready from now”.
Celebrating the announcement, Sheikh Mohamed tweeted: “UAE’s hosting of the 2019 Special Olympic World Games reflects the world’s confidence in UAE’s capabilities, youth and humanitarian image and we welcome the world’s best athletes to the UAE, congratulate Special Olympics leadership on promoting inclusion and tolerance through sport.”
Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum congratulated the UAE on winning the historic bid.