"Meet the Determined" was the motto chosen by the United Arab Emirates for the 50th Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. Their partnership to the Special Olympics is a testament for tolerance, inclusion and openness. The ADNEC excelled as Olympic venue.
ear sons and daughters, I am delighted to watch and support you. Everyone in the UAE supports you and takes pride in you." When His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan opened the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi with this strong statement, he was spontaneously embraced by Ali Saif, an athlete on the UAE-Team. This impulsive and touching moment totally enthralled the hearts of the 40,000 spectators at the Zayed Sports City Stadium; they enthusiastically cheered the 195 delegations marching into the arena, which encompassed the largest delegation from India and the USA with 381 athletes all the way to small groups from Gabon and Angola. Germany as host to the Special Olympics 2023 in Berlin at the middle of the parade, with the United Arab Emirates as this year's host bringing up the rear.
"Today, with your presence and participation, we send a message to the world that nothing is impossible when there is determination. Only a strong will can make a difference," said Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Under his patronage, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 have become an integral part of local, national and regional plans to expand opportunities for people of determination in line with Abu Dhabi‘s and the UAE’s shared vision of a unified and inclusive society.
The "Flame of Hope" carried this message from Greece through the Emirates all the way to Abu Dhabi. Its journey was broadcast via video to the Zayed Sports City Stadium; the flame was literally flown in with an impressive lightshow. These are the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East and North Africa; their ambition is to be the most unified Games in the 50-year history of the Special Olympics movement, with inclusion of people of determination with intellectual disabilities in every aspect of the event. "The athletes here are prophets of a new world, where everyone can contribute," emphasized Timothy Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics and the event founder's son. Eunice Kennedy-Shriver in 1968 initiated the Special Olympics premiere in Chicago.
195 delegations marched into the Zayed Sports City Stadium, with the United Arab Emirates as this year's host bringing up the rear.
PHOTO: SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD GAMES ABU DHABI 2019
"I have never seen anything like the preparation that has been put in over the past couple of years into insuring these Games will be World Games in the history of the special Olympic movement," is how Mary Davis, Special Olympics Chief Executive, narrated her impressions of the 850 days in preparation of this event. The National , foremost English-speaking newspaper in the Middle East, made this a Page One story.
In the time from March 14 to 21, 2019, more than 7,000 athletes competed against each other in 24 Olympic disciplines. They were supported by 4,000 coaches and attendants as well as an identical number of family members, 2,000 journalists, 3,000 guests of honor and 500,000 spectators. Conferences including the Global Inclusive Health Forum flanked the Special Olympics. The hashtag #Meet- TheDetermined was just as omnipresent in the social media as were the placards 'Meet The Determined' along streets and at buildings – in particular at the twelve Olympics venues.
In addition to the Zayed Sports City Stadium (soccer, tennis), these included the Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club (sailing, kayak), Yas Marina Circuit (cycling, triathlon), Al Forsan Resort (equestrian) and the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre – ADNEC. Competitions in eleven disciplines including table tennis and gymnastics were staged in these halls usually occupied by the global business community for expos and congresses including the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the World Energy Congress and the Middle East Games Con. Admission was free, the atmosphere relaxed and sportive.
His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan opened the Special Olympics and was embraced by Ali Saif.
PHOTOS: SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD GAMES ABU DHABI 2019
At the ADNEC, Clayton D’Costa, Director Planning & Program Integration Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi, installed the new meeting space "The Hive" as command center. D’Costa: "This is the most innovative main operation centre. It is the most innovative approach I have seen so far." Robin Miller was certainly delighted to hear that. The ADNEC Director Sales was instrumental in development of the new concept. The Hive features 865 sqms of flexible working stations and meeting rooms. "We wanted to create a space that provides innovation. All is designed to create dialogue," said Miller. "Our clients make it their space. It is like Lego for a meeting room, built for any reason." An Experience Manager and the ADNEC Meeting Format Directory are on hand to render any required assistance.
Hotels in the vicinity of the ADNEC feature ample facilities for accommodation and meetings; these operations include the Pearl Rotana Capital Centre, the Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre and the new Andaz Capital Gate Abu Dhabi, opened just recently last November. That same month saw the inauguration of the Abu Dhabi Edition in the downtown district. The Lifestyle Hotel operated by Ian Schrager and Marriott International at the Al Bateen yacht harbor has 198 rooms and 57 residences, 900 sqms of space for meetings and a ballroom. Nearby are the 7-star Emirates Palace and the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers with 382 rooms and suites, 13 meeting rooms and a ballroom. The Etihad Towers features an extraordinary observation deck on the 74th floor.
“IT WAS TRULY A SPECIAL MOMENT”
Mubarak H. Al Shamisi, Director Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau of the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi, about the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
tw: Which competition of the Special Olympics 2019 did you see? And how was it? Mubarak H. Al Shamisi: I was fortunate enough to attend a number of different sporting events. The set-up in ADNEC made it very easy to go from competition to completion and within just a few hours you could take in Basketball, Volleyball, Gymnastics, Roller Skating – just to name a few. I was honored to witness the determination of these inspirational athletes. There was such a buzz in the air, such positive energy from the participants and fans alike. There were also a number of fantastic activations in the fan areas which really engaged the athletes and their families. I loved seeing the teams from all over the world coming together in Abu Dhabi. It was truly a special moment.
Did the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau support the Special Olympics? We certainly did! At the very start of this journey, the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau team assisted the UAE Special Olympics Committee in preparing the bid document to host the Games, emphasizing the emirate’s mission to promote positive social change for people with intellectual disabilities and create a more inclusive society. During the event, we were involved again by assisting with the Host Town program, helping to manage the transportation and accommodation for more than 3,500 athletes.
Do you think that hosting the Special Olympics World Games, with its message of inclusion, tolerance and openness, will have an impact on Abu Dhabi as a destination for congresses and events? Absolutely. The Special Olympics World Games is an incredibly high-profile event, and we were honored to have been chosen as the first host from the Middle East and North Africa region in the event’s 50-year history. Having the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi has brought the global attention – and it will open the doors to hosting further international gatherings related to sport, health, education, and more. We have now demonstrated the capability of the emirate in hosting such largescale events, and the exceptional community and government support that can be expected. The Special Olympics is just another step in Abu Dhabi‘s journey to provide a more inclusive society for all.
Etihad Airways, the UAE's national airline, provides services ex Abu Dhabi International Airport to altogether 110 destinations, among these Düsseldorf, Frankfurt and Munich. Inauguration of the new passenger terminal has been postponed to the end of this year. In context with the Surface Transport Master Plan 2030, the mass transit system will be expanded by adding approximately 130 kms of metro network. New and unique attractions such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi or the Qasr Al Hosn are genuine tourism magnets. The former fort was once home to the ruling Al Nahyan family and later the seat of government; the historic building was converted into a museum in December of last year.
The traditions and heritage of the Middle East are also embodied in the Presidential Palace, seat of the UAE Cabinet and the Federal Supreme Court. Since March of this year, visitors have access to parts of this formerly inaccessible world: "Qasr Al Watan". This 'Palace of the Nation' is a spectacular and majestic venue for staging state visits and receiving heads of government, most recently also Pope Francis. Mubarak Al Shamsi, Director of the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, considers the opening of the presidential palace to be "a gesture of openness to get closer to people".
His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, has manifested the government's aim to establish values of openness by declaring 2019 as the Year of Tolerance. Diverse initiatives and events are designated to promote the values of cohabitation and a more tolerant society. The 'Mother of the Nation Festival' celebrates Her Highness Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, a driving force for the full participation of women and the disabled in the economic and civic life of the United Arab Emirates, the region, and the world. Tolerance is at the focus of the Special Olympics Zone Games’ Beach Volleyball, where teams from ten countries compete. Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan also brought his brother's greeting to the Special Olympics: "On behalf of my brother, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, we welcome you all to your second home, the Home of Zayed."