- His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan declares Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 open
- Performance of official World Games Abu Dhabi anthem by global music stars and arrival of Flame of Hope watched by thousands in stadium and millions live on global TV
- Parade of Athletes from record number of nations, accompanied by Special Olympics Chairman Dr Timothy Shriver, Heads of State, VIPs, celebrities and representatives of the Special Olympics movement, met with huge applause as they entered arena
United Arab Emirates (UAE) – 14 March 2019: His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan announced the start of Special Olympics World Games 2019 at a spectacular Opening Ceremony at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday.
The Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces officially welcomed more than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches, representing 200 nations, for seven days of incredible Olympic-style sports and a celebration of the human spirit.
A crowd of thousands, including people of determination, Heads of State, dignitaries, VIPs, celebrities, members of the community, families and fans packed into the stadium to watch an incredible live show that weaved together the heritage of the Emirates, the spirit of the Special Olympics, the goals of the Abu Dhabi World Games and the vision of the UAE.
Anthem Performed for First Time
Some of the biggest names in music delivered a thrilling rendition of the official World Games anthem ‘Right Where I’m Supposed To Be’ for the very first time.
A number of widely acclaimed music stars and producers, including Greg Wells, a producer and Grammy Award-winner for ‘The Greatest Showman’ soundtrack, Ryan Tedder, lead singer of chart-topping boy band OneRepublic, and Quincy Jones, Honorary Executive Producer and 28-time Grammy Award-winner, came together to create the official song for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
The song was performed by global superstar Avril Lavigne, whose song ‘Fly’ was the official anthem for the 2015 World Games, and Luis Fonsi, singer of global smash-hit single ‘Despacito’ Emirati singer and Good Will Ambassador at Large, HE Hussain Al Jassmi, Syrian superstar Assala Nasri, and star of Egypt and the Arab world, Tamer Hosny.
The new anthem is a sensational celebration of the spirit of Special Olympics and Abu Dhabi’s goal of creating a more inclusive world that truly values the contributions of every individual, regardless of ability.
Amazing Live Performances
People of determination played a leading role in the Opening Ceremony. They are the ‘Makers’ who worked hand-in-hand with an international team of specialists and performers to make their vision a reality to mark the beginning of the biggest sports and humanitarian event on the planet this year.
The ‘Makers’ shaped the performances to encapsulate the spirit of the Olympic dream that is shared by each of the 7,500 athletes. The ‘Makers’ showed that people of determination have a powerful voice and are the greatest leaders, teachers and champions for inclusion.
One such performance was ‘Woven World’. Singing first in Arabic and then English, hundreds of youngsters performed in a celebration of the strength and beautiful diversity of our world and the boundless humanity we all share.
To the delight of the crowd and watching dignitaries, the singers joined together in one perfect voice to perform as a Global Unified Choir.
Projected on giant screens around the venue, the children weaved a wonderful choreography of sound and light as a stunning LED disc bearing the logo and symbol of the World Games Abu Dhabi was slowly raised into view.
Parade of Athletes
With the voices of hundreds of children still echoing around the stadium, thousands of Special Olympics athletes entered the arena.
In a moment of incredible pride, joy and excitement, teams of athletes from the competing countries paraded into Zayed Sports City to a stirring and empowering chorus of cheers and claps from the crowd.
More than 1,000 VIPs representing Special Olympics, the World Games and the UAE also joined the athletes in an amazing display of inclusivity and unity while the legendary British DJ Paul Oakenfold electrified the stadium with his world-famous selection of uplifting house music and entertained athletes as they walked and danced into the arena.
The name of each country was projected across the stadium’s giant screens and around the stage, with each receiving enthusiastic applause from the crowd.
The athletes and spectators stood to attention to respectfully observe the raising of the UAE’s flag. A proud moment for every Emirati, expatriate resident, and the scores of people who have worked tirelessly to make the World Games a reality, the UAE’s national anthem was then played to rapturous applause.
Unique Displays of Unity
Next, in a visionary piece of audience interaction, thousands of arms were raised to the sky revealing a beautiful collage of LED World Games wristbands.
Led by a group of athletes and performers on the center stage, the glowing wristbands acted as a powerful display of unity, inclusivity and commitment to the goals of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
The stage was then perfectly set for an address by Dr Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, who delivered a rousing, heartfelt and inspirational message to the UAE and the world.
Dr Shriver’s speech was followed by a message of unity from the UAE Special Olympics community, including athletes and members of the Local Organizing Committee (LOC) of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
What followed next was a moment of reflection and remembrance as spectators turned to view a short film dedicated to the memory of the Special Olympics founder, Eunice Kennedy Shriver.
The World Games Abu Dhabi is a fitting tribute to the remarkable achievements of Mrs Shriver, who passed away 10 years ago. This year also marks five decades since the Games were officially established.
Arrival of Flame of Hope
After paying homage to the roots and history of the Special Olympics, it was time to celebrate the latest addition to the legacy of the global sports and humanitarian movement with the arrival of the Flame of Hope.
Carried by athletes from all seven continents and officers from the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, the torch circled the stadium as a festival of Emirati cultural performances, traditions and dances were played out on center stage.
To a heart-pounding drum beat, the crowd watched displays of UAE traditions, such as the sharing of gahwa coffee, as the torch was passed from runner to runner, each igniting their own symbolic flame.
The runners then gathered around a cauldron to light the Special Olympics flame that will burn for the duration of the World Games.
As the Special Olympics Flame burned brightly and the official anthem filled the air, the final curtain was brought down on a spectacular Opening Ceremony that signaled the beginning of seven days of incredible sport, human endeavor and unity.
About Special Olympics
Special Olympics is a global inclusion movement using sport, health, education and leadership programs every day around the world to end discrimination against and empower people with intellectual disabilities. Founded in 1968, and celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 6 million athletes and Unified Sports partners in more than 190 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 100,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by individuals, foundations and partners, including Bank of America, the Christmas Records Trust, The Coca-Cola Company, ESPN, Essilor Vision Foundation, the Golisano Foundation, the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, Lions Clubs International Foundation, Microsoft, Safilo Group, Stavros Niarchos Foundation, TOYOTA, United Airlines, and The Walt Disney Company. Click here for a full list of partners. Engage with us on: Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and our blog on Medium. Learn more at www.SpecialOlympics.org.
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