Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1334, (2 - 8 March 2017)

Ahram Weekly

Sand for snow

Egyptian athletes have been training on sand instead of snow as they prepare for the 2017 Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria

Special Olympics Winter Games in Austria

For the second time, Austria will host the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games. Graz, Schladming, Ramsau and Styria will stage the Games from 14 to 25 March.

In 1993, Austria hosted the first Special Olympics World Winter Games held outside the US. A lot has changed since and a worldwide audience will get the chance to see many moments from the Games. ESPN will be broadcasting stories and competitions live during the Games.

Nearly 2,700 athletes and 1,000 coaches representing 107 nations will be welcomed at the opening ceremony, to be held at the Planai Stadium in Schladming, a regular stop on the World Cup circuit and site of the 2013 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships.
They will get the opportunity in the 10-day competition to ski, skate, snowboard, snowshoe, shoot balls and pucks to enjoy the winter weather in Austria. For many of the athletes, attending a World Games is the dream of a lifetime.


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The World Games will feature nine Olympic-style sports: floor ball, floor hockey, stick shooting, figure skating, short track speed skating, Alpine skiing, snowboarding, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. The Games will showcase the unlimited potential of people with intellectual disabilities -- the largest disability population in the world.

Special Olympics (SO) Egypt athletes will participate in floor hockey with 16 players and four players in snowshoeing. According to Bassem Al-Tohami, SO Egypt’s national director and head of the Egyptian delegation to Austria, “our athletes have been training for a long time for the Winter Games. They trained on the sand near the Pyramids to get used to snowshoeing because there is no snow in Egypt. Sand has the same texture and will help them in achieving good results at the Games.”

Emad Mohieddin, SO Middle East and North Africa (MENA) sports and training manager, said the MENA region’s programmes were first created in the Winter Games in Alaska 2001 “so they have vast experience and enjoy taking part in such Games”. He said the MENA delegation will compromise athletes representing Oman, Libya, Palestine, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Bahrain, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Tunisia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria and Iran in addition to Egypt.

Ayman Abdel-Wahab, SO MENA president and managing director, is monitoring the preparations to make sure the MENA programmes are up to par to represent the region not only in the competition but in the Youth Summit, the Family Programme and the Healthy Athletes Programme that will be held alongside the Games.

A delegation consisting of athletes, organisers and representatives of Special Olympics International, Special Olympics Austria, the Austrian province of Styria and the Diocese Graz-Seckau will meet Pope Francis for a private audience on 16 February. Athletes will also tour Rome, the Vatican and attend a reception at the Austrian Embassy.  

Prior to the Games, the Host Town programme will receive athletes over three days during which they will be divided among the cities of Austria to experience Austrian hospitality and social engagement and have the chance to convey their life values, their culture and their traditions.

SO Egypt will be hosted in Landeshauptstadt Graz where the athletes are ready to show their history and Pharaonic civilisation.
Famed personalities will cheer on the athletes at the Planai, including Princess Charlene of Monaco, Special Olympics Global Ambassador and Olympic Gold Medalist Hannah Teter, American short track speed skating Olympic champion Apolo Ohno, Hall of Famer and SO Global Ambassador and board member Dikembe Mutombo, Olympic figure-skating legend and Special Olympics International board member Michelle Kwan and NBA legend and SOI board member Sam Perkins.

The world’s largest sports and humanitarian event this year, the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria announced two very special performances for the event’s opening ceremony. Performers include multi-Grammy award-winning folk-pop songsmith Jason Mraz and 13-year-old winner of America’s Got Talent Grace Vander Waal.

To honour the athletes, Mraz will be planning a special performance which will be a powerful unification of Special Olympics youth and athletes. “I’m incredibly honoured to be asked to perform during the opening ceremony, celebrating the courage, determination and spirit of every Special Olympics athlete who travelled to compete in these Games,” Mraz was reported as saying.

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