The Special Olympics World Games Abu Dubai 2019 laid the foundation for the legacy of inclusion and a more unified future.
By hosting the 10-day event in March of 2019, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan promoted empowerment and inclusion for people of determination. Held during the Year of Tolerance, the Games broke records by welcoming the most number of nations in the history of the event and as the first nation in the region to stage it. Sheikh Mohamed attended the events, met the athletes, and motivated them.
A study released by the Special Olympics UAE on the impact of the Games showed a 400 per cent increase in the number of competitors, a 50 per cent rise in the number of events. It also showed an uptick in the number of female competitors in 18 sports by 27 per cent, and males by 7 per cent.
In 2020, another study conducted by Nielsen revealed that the Games had played a defining role in improving the overall sentiment toward people with intellectual disabilities in the UAE.
A series of social initiatives were initiated to establish the legacy of the Games, notably the Unified Champion Schools (UCS) programme, to integrate students with intellectual and developmental disabilities to achieve an inclusive environment in education.
In 2020, Sheikh Mohamed pledged $25 million for the global expansion of inclusive education programmes across six countries, including Argentina, Egypt, India, Pakistan, Romania, and Rwanda.
At the start of the academic year 2021-2022, more than 400 government and private schools across the UAE committed to making their school communities more inclusive this year by registering for UCS.
In January, the Special Olympics UAE were awarded the Special Olympics Healthy Communities Grant – 2021 by the World Special Olympics. Sheikh Mohamed hosted the delegation and congratulated them for getting the Grant, which the world’s Special Olympics awards to the countries that implement its Healthy Communities Programme.
“Ensuring the wellbeing of our People of Determination and providing them with comprehensive care in line with the highest international standards lies at the heart of the UAE’s plans and programmes to empower them and ensure their effective contributions to the country’s development,” Sheikh Mohamed told the delegation.
His Highness continues to support and remains committed to improving the lives of people of determination in the country and globally.