The Legacy Continues

Ariel photo of the Closing Ceremony at the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi.jpg

One month has passed since the final competitions, the last medals awarded and the lights dimmed down on the Closing Ceremony of the 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi. However, the legacy of the Games continue. From sports and education to music and more, the spirit of the Games will continue to uplift and inspire all of us through a number of actions and activities.

New Partnerships and Sports

During the 2019 World Games, three landmark collaboration agreements were made between Special Olympics and international sports federations.

Badminton has been a Special Olympics sport for some time now. Badminton World Federation (BWF) President Poul-Erik Høyer said the landmark agreement aligns with the federation’s commitment to provide high-quality sporting experiences and opportunities for all.

"What we have seen here this week in Abu Dhabi is an amazing platform that allows people of great spirit to show the world what they can do. This partnership will hopefully foster the establishment of more platforms to allow children and adults with intellectual disabilities to experience badminton all the time.”

Drew Boshell, Senior Vice President Sport & Health, Special Olympics and Poul-Erik Hoyer (BWF) sign Long-Term Partnership Memo of Understanding
Special Olympics and Badminton World Federation (BWF) sign Long-Term Partnership Memo of Understanding. March 18, 2019 at 2019 World Games in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Additionally, two of the new partnerships coincided with the recognition of new, official Special Olympics sports - International Cheer Union and World DanceSport Federation.

“We are pleased to have established partnerships with the World DanceSport Federation and the International Cheer Union to help develop these growing sports within Special Olympics,” said Jon-Paul St. Germain, Senior Director of Sports Partnerships and Unified Sports at Special Olympics. “We applaud these two international sport federations for their support of Special Olympics and recognizing that everyone in society benefits from the provision of inclusive sport opportunities for all.”

Theme Song

The official anthem of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, ‘Right Where I’m Supposed To Be’, was released with all proceeds going to Special Olympics programs across the world.

Produced by the Grammy Award-winning Greatest Showman soundtrack Producer, Greg Wells, alongside Honorary Executive Producer and 28-time Grammy Winner, Quincy Jones, the song has been co-written by Wells, Ryan Tedder and Nina Woodford and features Luis Fonsi, singer of smash-hit single ‘Despacito’, Canadian singer Avril Lavigne and regional music artists Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi, Syrian superstar Assala Nasri, and Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny.

Initiatives in the United Arab Emirates

In association with the work done in hosting the 2019 World Games, UAE leaders launched 31 pieces of legislation, initiatives and projects related to serving the aspirations of people of determination in sports, education, health, culture and quality of life. ‘People of determination’ is a phrase used in the UAE to describe people with disabilities.

The process of inclusion started before the Games says H.E. Mohamed Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee for Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. “We launched a lot of activities and initiatives in the build-up to the World Games and have shown everyone there is no barrier when it comes to achievement for people with intellectual disabilities.”

The new initiatives include:

  • The establishment of Unified Champion Schools in every public school in the UAE. Unified Champion Schools pairs public school pupils with and without disabilities together to take part in sports and other activities.
  • The ADNOC Group (Abu Dhabi National Oil Company) announced that the company will evolve its recruitment and employment program to provide people of determination with a range of specialist learning support services at ADNOC schools.
  • A Mothers of Determination Association will be formed to meet and support the needs of families of children with intellectual disabilities to allow them to reach their full potential through education and training.

Broadcast

The 2019 World Games were the most watched ever! The Games were broadcast on 60 stations to 183 countries, reaching 760 million households. The host broadcasting partner, ADTV, shared 454 hours or programming throughout the Middle East and Africa. ESPN, Special Olympics long-term broadcast partner, provided live and taped coverage in North America, the Caribbean, South America and on cruise ships. ESPNs introduction and closing videos to their reporting really set a celebratory and aspiration tone to their coverage.

Future Games

Looking ahead to 2021, the Special Olympics World Winter Games will travel to Sweden before arriving in Berlin for the 2023 World Games. Special Olympics Board Chair, Dr. Timothy Shriver explained how the momentum gained from Abu Dhabi will inspire the athletes and organizers to reach greater levels of achievement. “As we come to the end of World Games here in UAE, it is the beginning of the next part of our movement’s journey—a journey that started 50 years ago. A journey to a world without discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities,” he said.

A group of volunteers holding Sweden's flag on stage during the closing ceremony.
Sweden’s flag during the flag hand-off at the Closing Ceremony for the 2019 World Games, Abu Dhabi, UAE.

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