The inaugural Special Olympics UAE Games is underway at ADNEC Centre Abu Dhabi, with the participation of more than 600 athletes from across the UAE. The games take place until 10 June 2024, with athletes competing across six different sports comprising bowling, badminton, basketball, football, powerlifting, and esports.

Participating athletes are members of People of Determination clubs and centres from across the UAE, including Abu Dhabi Club for People of Determination, Al Ain Club for People of Determination, Dubai Club for People of Determination, Al Thiqah Club for Disabled, Ajman Club for the Disabled, RAK Club for People of Determination, Khorfakkan Club for the Disabled, Sharjah City for Humanitarian Services, Heroes of Hope, Emirates Down Syndrome Association, Ras Al Khaimah for Welfare and Rehabilitation Center for People of Determination, Dubai Club for People of Determination, Fujairah Center for People of Determination, Dibba Al Fujairah Center For Care And Rehabilitation Of People With Disabilities, Al Noor Rehabilitation and Welfare Association for People of Determination, and the various local centers operated by Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination across Abu Dhabi.

His Excellency Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE and Chairman of the UAE Games, said: “Following the tremendous success of the Unified Schools UAE Games, we are proud to mark the official launch of the second phase of this landmark event for clubs and centres for People of Determination. These remarkable athletes personify resilience, they continue to inspire us all and demonstrate the power of sports to drive inclusion and unity. Through their participation in the Special Olympics UAE Games, we encourage them to develop their skills, build lasting friendships, and celebrate the success of their dedication and teamwork.

“We are thankful for the guidance of our leadership that emphasises the significance of results-orientated efforts to empower People of Determination with intellectual and developmental disabilities. We are also grateful for the contributions and support of our sponsors and partners including ADNEC Centre Abu Dhabi for hosting the Games, Abu Dhabi Mobility, Abu Dhabi Police, as well as Burjeel Group and Appolonia Dentistry for Children, for providing valuable support to the Healthy Athletes screenings. Today, along with our partners, we continue to establish the UAE’s position as a global leader in empowering People of Determination across all sectors, namely the sports and healthcare sectors. We also thank all the coaches, medical staff, technical staff, caregivers, and family members of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.”

The Special Olympics UAE Games includes several complementary activities from the Special Olympics UAE Health Program. A health screening will be made available to all participating athletes, and covers feet, hearing health, oral and dental health, mental health, and eye checks, which are managed by more than 160 doctors and medical volunteers from across the UAE, in collaboration with more than 20 partners in the healthcare sector.

Doctors from the UAE, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Algeria will participate in a Unified Healthcare training session, in collaboration with Special Olympics MENA, to equip them with the knowledge to make accommodations and modifications and increase their ability to deliver healthcare to People of Determination.

The Special Olympics UAE Games includes several activities taking place alongside the primary competitions, including various sports activities open to community participation, which aim to maximise unified engagement and experiences.

Community-wide sports activities include bowling activations, in collaboration with the Ministry of Community Development’s Centers for People of Determination, in addition to basketball and football activities, held in collaboration with Zayed Higher Organization for People of Determination, as well as unified experiences organised by Jam Academy.

During the UAE Games, the winners of the Local Golisano Health Leadership Award will be announced. This award represents the highest accolade offered by Special Olympics for organisations that contribute to the expansion of inclusive and compassionate healthcare across the country. The Golisano Health Leadership Award is also the most prestigious award across the inclusive health sector and Special Olympics International on a global scale.

In partnership with local sports federations and councils across Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Sharjah, the inaugural Special Olympics UAE Games aims to showcase the role of sports in furthering inclusion of People of Determination.

The games have received nationwide support from local organisations including ADNOC, Aldar Properties, the Abu Dhabi Mobility, Nedaa, UAE Badminton Federation, Emirates Bodybuilding and Fitness Federation, Appolonia Dentistry for Children, and SEHA.