Special Olympics: A flame for people of determination

By Angel Chan

ABU DHABI 6 March 2019: As the start of the Special Olympics World Games, Abu Dhabi 2019, is approaching, the world is looking at the capital, Abu Dhabi, to follow the competitions of the largest humanitarian and sporting event in the world, which will be hosted by the “Land of Tolerance” until 21st March.

The first edition of the event took place under the name, “Special Olympics Movement for People with Intellectual Disabilities,” in July 1968 in Chicago, upon an initiative by Unis Kennedy Shriver, to support this community group, with the participation of 1,000 competitors, including those with intellectual disabilities, representing 26 American states and Canada, who competed in athletics, hockey and swimming.

A winter edition of the Special Olympics was held in Colorado, with the participation of 500 competitors, from 5th to 11th February, 1977.

The 1981 Olympics was one of its key milestones, as it aimed to raise awareness about the event, said Wam.

Unites The World

Under the slogan, “The Special Olympics Unites the World,” 1986 witnessed the first presence of the Special Olympic at the United Nations, UN, in New York, and it was declared the international year of the Special Olympics while 1988 witnessed the first training programme for trainers and the publication of the first manual for sporting skills.

On 15th February, 1988, an agreement was signed by the Olympic Committee that officially recognised the Special Olympic Games. In July of the same year, the “Unified Sports” was launched and recognised at the annual Special Olympics Conference that was held in Reno, Nevada.

The 8th Summer Games of the Special Olympics, which was held in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from 19th to 27th July, 1991, was considered a key milestone in the history of the Olympics, and the official name of the event was changed from the International Summer or Winter Games of the Special Olympics to the Summer or Winter World Games of the Special Olympics. The event was attended by 6,000 competitors representing 100 countries.

We Win Together

On 30th September, 1992, a celebration took place to mark the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the Special Olympics in New York, under the slogan, “We Win Together.”

The world’s largest multi-sports winter games were held from 1st to 8th February, 1997, in Toronto, Canada, in which five winter games were held with over 2,000 players representing 73 countries.

On 20th June, 1998, the Special Olympics celebrated the 30th anniversary of its establishment, and introduced an initiative to make competitors its official spokespersons.

On 16th January, 2000, ABC broadcasted the first film on the life of a Special Olympics competitor, titled, “Loreta Claiborne.”

The Special Olympics was held in China from 18th to 20th May, 2000, and the flame lit up the Great Wall of China.

Conference for Competitors

From 20th to 23rd May of the same year, the “First Conference for Competitors” took place in the Netherlands, with the participation of 60 competitors from around the world.

From 12th to 14 July, 2001, Cape Town witnessed the “African Hope” celebrations of the 2001 Special Olympics. Nelson Mandela, Former South African President, took part in lighting the torch that travelled through the streets of the city, to raise awareness of the Special Olympics movement and related programmes across the African continent. The programme began a major campaign to increase the number of African competitors to 100,000 by 2005.

Coinciding with the Winter Games of the Special Olympics, the “First Youth Conference” was held from 5th to 10th March, 2001, with the participation of 34 intellectually disabled students from around the world.

On 22nd March, 2002, the Special Olympics launched its noble message, in partnership with Universal Studios, to promote acceptance and tolerance.

Challenge The Way

The World Summer Games of the Special Olympics was held in Los Angeles from 25 July to 2nd August, 2015, under the slogan, “Challenge the Way to Gold,” with the participation of 7,000 athletes from 177 countries.

On 20th July, 2018, the world celebrated the golden jubilee of the Special Olympics World Games.

In March 2017, during the closing ceremony of the World Winter Games in Graz, Austria, the UAE received the flag to host the 2019 World Games Special Olympics, which will be attended by around 7,500 athletes from over 190 countries participating in 24 summer games, under the supervision of 2,500 trainers and administrators.

During the Summer Games, Abu Dhabi will offer an integrated programme that will also include health initiatives for young competitors and children between the ages of three and eight, as well as initiatives that will involve families, to share experiences and raise public awareness about mental disability.

Palm Fronds

Abu Dhabi, through its theme inspired by traditional folklore related to palm fronds, will reflect the cohesion and unity of the games, and its efforts to promote and reinforce the spirit of solidarity and cooperation among the entire community, by hosting the world’s most cohesive sporting event and in solidarity with the history of the Special Olympics.

Dubai Gazette