The occasion for this huge gathering: the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.
Between March 14th and 21st, athletes compete in 24 summer sports. This is the first-ever Special Olympics World Games to be held in the Middle East or North Africa, with the highest number of women competing and the largest number of unified teams participating.
The events started off with the Global Youth Leadership Summit, a forum featuring 550 youth leaders with and without disabilities from 90 countries. The summit focused on the importance of youth leaders in the global movement and the potential of unified schools and sports programs in creating an inclusive generation. The SNF was honored by Dr. Timothy Shriver, the Chairman of Special Olympics, for its support.
The opening ceremony of the games took place at the Zayed Sports City Stadium. The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the start of the World Games, which was followed by a parade of athletes that concluded with musical performances and a beautiful firework show. SNF Board of Directors member George Agouridis had the honor of speaking as part of the Opening Ceremony, saying, “What’s most special of all about Special Olympics is the beautiful simplicity of the idea at its heart: that a world where all people are included is a better, more fulfilling place to live for everyone.”
A recent three-year, $10 million grant from SNF supports Special Olympics International’s efforts to promote unified play and learning through inclusive sport and education. Countries of focus in this partnership include Brazil, Chile, China, Egypt, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, Serbia, and Tanzania.