The event also celebrated the positive impact of the Special Olympics movement to improve the lives of people with intellectual disabilities, and promote tolerance and inclusion.
Yousef Al Otaiba, UAE Ambassador to the US congratulated Special Olympics on reaching this important milestone, saying that the organisation has done so much to foster acceptance and tolerance through sports, and the UAE is proud to be kicking-off the next 50 years of the Special Olympics’ ‘inclusion revolution’ in Abu Dhabi in 2019.
The programme featured remarks by Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, Dana Al Marashi, Head of Heritage and Social Affairs at the UAE Embassy in Washington, Sue Fruchter, Interim Head of NMAH, and Loretta Claiborne, Special Olympics Chief Inspiration Officer. The speakers underscored the achievements of the Special Olympics movement to build acceptance and tolerance, and promote friendship through sports.
During his remarks, Shriver highlighted the importance of celebrating this milestone alongside the UAE Embassy, ahead of the Special Olympics World Games that will be held in Abu Dhabi next year.
"We are thrilled to celebrate this occasion with the UAE Embassy, as Abu Dhabi, will host our next and most inclusive Special Olympics World Games in March 2019. The athletes of Special Olympics are leaders the world needs at this critical moment, teaching us how to shower respect on your fellow human beings, and showing the world what it means to choose to include," he said.
The UAE will be the first country in the Middle East and North Africa region to host the Special Olympics World Games, which will be the world’s largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019. Around 7,000 athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in 24 sports at the World Games Abu Dhabi.
Noting the upcoming World Games, Al Marashi said, "I’m sure these athletes of different cultures and backgrounds will find common ground in the UAE, where we are fortunate to host residents from over 200 nationalities. This diversity in cultures creates positive outlook, tolerance and understanding. This is a value we in the UAE share with our US friends and partners."