Friday,22 February, 2019
Current issue | Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)
Friday,22 February, 2019
Issue 1377, ( 18 - 24 January 2018)

Ahram Weekly

Two in a row in Abu Dhabi

The 2018 Special Olympics IX MENA Games, together with the World Games, both in the UAE, are taking diverse steps to prepare for the big events, reports Abeer Anwar

Special Olympics young athletes while training

Abu Dhabi will be the first city ever to host both the Special Olympics Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Games and the World Games, one after the other. Celebrating the golden jubilee of the Special Olympics movement in Abu Dhabi will welcome over 1,200 athletes of all abilities to take part in the IX MENA Games with events being held at the same venues and facilities that will be used during the 2019 World Games. Athletes will participate in 16 sports which will be hosted in eight venues, including ADNEC, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, NYUAD, Officer’s Club, Mubadala IPC Arena, Al-Jazira Sports Club and Al-Forsan Club.

The MENA Games will take place from 14 - 23 March 2018 with the participation of 1,200 athletes competing in 16 sports representing 33 countries: 18 from the MENA region and 15 from all other regions, 450 coaches, 3,000 volunteers and 100 honoured guests. On the sidelines of the games several initiatives will be held: the Healthy Athletes programme, Families Forum and the Young Athletes Demo-Youth Summit.

Healthy Athletes is free health screenings and consultation for athletes and team members. Family Workshop is a series of discussions and support sessions for the families of Special Olympic athletes. The Youth Summit is an opportunity for young people, including athletes and unified partners who want to learn more about the Special Olympics movement and the value of inclusion, to meet and discuss how to promote the mission of Special Olympics in their own communities.

That is why Special Olympics is unique to every other Olympic Games and is recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC).

At the same time, Cairo hosted the biggest gathering for marketing, initiatives and global development and health managers during a four-day training seminar including 23 managers representing Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq, Bahrain, Jordan, Algeria, Mauritania and Morocco.

The training seminar aimed at preparing programmes to attract a greater number of mentally disabled athletes to the movement. “We have reached right now 160,000 athletes and we are targeting 250,000 by the end of 2020 so we have to be well prepared for this mission and that is why we are always eager to update our staff with the latest technique and initiatives,” Ayman Abdel-Wahab, SO MENA managing director, said. Abdel-Wahab said the MENA region includes 15 million mentally disabled people. “We have a long way to go and we have to be well-prepared for it.” He added he was very happy that the movement will celebrate its 50th anniversary alongside the IX MENA Games. “It is a great honour bestowed on Abu Dhabi which will also be the first country to host a World Summer Games in the MENA region. Let me admit that I am dazzled with the amount of work done in Abu Dhabi to make the event fantastic. The organising committee of the games is doing its best and has met a great challenge by hosting 33 countries in the coming MENA Games so I am sure the games will be outstanding.”

The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the MENA Games headed to the Mubadala Arena for the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam, to recruit volunteers who are willing to participate in the biggest volunteer effort to date in the Middle East.

The volunteer programme offers participants, with and without intellectual disabilities, the chance to be involved in the biggest humanitarian sporting event in the world. There are hundreds of possible jobs for Special Olympics volunteers in diversified sectors, including events management, protocol, media, marketing and much more. Some require specialised and advanced skills; many only need a positive attitude and the willingness to pitch in and help.

Volunteers will be involved in influencing positive change across the region and in changing perceptions of people of determination with intellectual disabilities. Over 3,000 volunteers have already signed up and there are still opportunities for many more to participate. 

Volunteers must be at least 14 years old and commit to a minimum of three days during the games. All volunteers will be required to attend 16 hours of training ahead of the MENA Games.

As SO celebrates its golden jubilee it should be remembered that athletic competition is the true heart of the Special Olympics mission and movement. Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics, believed that people with intellectual disabilities, by training for and competing in sports, could develop pride, a true sense of accomplishment, and a clearer picture of their own value and potential. She also understood that by watching Special Olympics athletes compete, or by helping them through coaching or volunteering, people without disabilities would come to understand the athletes’ capacity for achievement, their desire to do their best and the humanity we all share.


New SO Rules member

BASSEM Al-Tohami, Special Olympics Egypt national director, was part of the Special Olympics Sports Rules Advisory Committee workshop which took place in Toronto, Canada, from 8-12 January. The workshop was attended by Venisha Bowler, senior manager competitions at Special Olympics together with Marie Merritt, SO sports  planning manager and Sandy Harker, development manager, in addition to 14 members of the committee.

The workshop discussed the development of sports rules in Special Olympics for both winter and summer sports in addition to overviewing technical reports from the Winter Games held in Austria in March 2017. It also discussed proposed new sports, including collective dancing.

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