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UAE Welcomes the Special Olympics Athletes 

11 Mar 2019

Abu Dhabi hosts the world’s largest humanitarian sporting event, the Special Olympics World Games 2019.

More than 7,000 athletes from around 200 countries worldwide are arriving in the UAE this week for the Special Olympics World Games 2019. Abu Dhabi is hosting one of the largest sporting events of the year from March 14-21, when people of determination will compete in 24 Olympic-style sports including gymnastics, basketball, golf, swimming, cycling, judo, tennis and beach volleyball.

Under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE's Armed Forces, the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 celebrates all athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID), regardless of their level of ability. It is the first Special Olympics World Games to be held in the Middle East and North Africa.

Athletes will compete in 24 different individual and team sports at venues including Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, Abu Dhabi Sailing and Yacht Club, Zayed Sports City, Yas Marina Circuit, and Al Forsan International Sports Resort. There will also be athletics events hosted at the Dubai Police Academy and swimming at the Hamdan Sports Complex, both in Dubai.

Flame of Hope Torch Run 

The official torch for the Special Olympics World Games has arrived in the UAE after being lit in Athens, Greece. It is being run throughout the country by Special Olympics athletes and law enforcement officers from around the world, known as the Guardians of the Flame.

Branded the Flame of Hope Torch Run, it has passed through locations across the UAE including Jebel Jais, Fujairah Fort, Al Majaz Waterfront, Burj Al Arab, the Dubai Frame, Al Seef Village, and Atlantis, The Palm hotel. The torch's final destination will be at the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics, to be held at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi on March 14.

Who’s competing?

Athletes are coming from countries including Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Canada, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Italy, Macau, Taipei, Monaco, Belgium, Russia and Austria, and many more.

Special Olympics athletes include the UAE basketball star Butti Al Sheezawi, who has previously competed in the NBA Unified Basketball Game, four regional games and three Special Olympics World Games. Other athletes hoping to take home a Gold medal include 15-year-old cyclist Ella Curtis from the UK, and New Zealand’s goalkeeper Damian Johanson.

Premier Inn’s Abu Dhabi International Airport Hotel and Abu Dhabi Capital Centre Hotel are hosting several of the national teams competing at the Games.

How to buy tickets

There are 40,000 tickets available for the Opening Ceremony on March 14, which will feature a parade, the lighting of the cauldron and a series of performances. Tickets cost Dhs.100 and can be bought through Ticketmaster. For tickets to any of the Special Olympics’ events, you can register online.

Where to stay

Looking for somewhere to stay close to the sporting action? You can check into one of two Premier Inn hotels, which are affordable, comfortable and fully equipped with leisure facilities.

Abu Dhabi Capital Centre Hotel is located opposite one of the Games’ world-class sporting venues, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), and it’s just a short journey from Abu Dhabi International Airport. Abu Dhabi International Airport Hotel is just a short walk from Terminals 1 and 3 and is within easy reach of all Abu Dhabi and Dubai sports venues.