A sporting event for people of determination, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, saw more than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches from 190 nations compete in 24 different individual and team sports. Here’s what UAE schools did to get involved:
64 exceptional singers from Aldar Acadmies Al Yasmina Academy participated in a combined choir for the opening and closing ceremony for the Special Olympics. The choir of 500 singers, composed of students from three Aldar Academy schools, performed alongside world-renowned artists such as Hussain Al Jassmi, Avril Lavigne, Keala Settle, and Luis Fonsi.
ADNOC Schools were the only schools that participated in the Torch Relay Ceremony, walking alongside 300 ADNOC employees. It was a proud moment for the students when they welcomed the Flame of Hope and met the UAE team participating.
Throughout the year, Al Yasmina Academy has been celebrating the values of the Special Olympics: sportsmanship with joy, leadership, unity, bravery, and perseverance, in order to deliver the message ‘we are tolerant’. Claire Raidi, Head of Inclusion, said: “Our legacy is to now have all our students sign the Special Olympics pledge, ‘I pledge to look for the lonely, the isolated, the left out, the challenged, and the bullied. I pledge to overcome the fear of difference and replace it with the power of inclusion. I choose to include.’”
Prior to the World Games, and following an inspiring presentation by the Special Olympics CEO, Peter Wheeler, Brighton College Abu Dhabi set up its very own student committee, registering over 70 pupils as potential volunteers for the various events that were planned in support of the World Games. The pupils on the committee also organised and ran a Special Olympics stall on National Day to raise awareness in the younger students through games and activities.
Ten students from ADNOC Schools Sas Al Nakhal Female Campus were shortlisted to participate in the Art Unified Competition organised by Special Olympics World Games 2019.
As one of the sponsors of this year’s Special Olympics, Aldar Academies Al Ain Academy offered a chance for students to view the games and promote the message of tolerance. Grace, Year 8, said: “I liked how all the athletes were treated equally and how much respect they had for each other.”
‘Adopt A Nation’
The School of Modern Skills welcomed 130 athletes and delegates from its adopted nation, Oman. The ‘Adopt a Nation’ initiative saw 4,000 athletes hosted by 50 schools and universities across Dubai. ADNOC Schools also hosted the Moroccan team, performing different activities for them that reflected UAE culture. At the end of the visit, the students presented an Al Ghaf plant to the team, as well as a good luck gift for each athlete.
‘Proud and Resolute’
At the World Games, Dubai Centre for Special Needs celebrates a number of its athletes bringing home hard-earned medals.
Josie McIntyre, a 13-year-old Down syndrome student from New Zealand, for instance, competed as a rhythmic gymnast in three events, picking up the Silver Medal in the ball routine.Her family said, “It was a week of a hundred smiles, a hundred cheers, and a hundred hugs. Josie shone like the brightest star whilst performing. We are bursting with pride and love.”
Abdullah Zubair Obaid Al Tajer, a 26-year-old Emirati from Dubai with intellectual disability, began swimming in competitions in 2004, and has since won numerous Gold Medals in Jordan, China, Syria, and the United States, to name a few, and has now picked up another Gold Medal in the individual 50-metres breast stroke. His 22-year-old brother, Mohammed, with a learning disability, picked up two Gold Medals in his chosen sport, horse riding, in the equestrian jumping and English equestrian competitions.
Saif Al Ejlah, a 27-year-old Emirati from Sharjah with intellectual disability, won a Gold Medal in the pool in the 25-metre individual freestyle. His mother stated, “I am so proud of Saif’s achievements and that he represented his country with honour.”