With support from the Badminton World Federation (BWF) and AirBadminton Dubai, 26 Special Olympics United Arab Emirates (UAE) athletes showcased their talents at Expo 2020 Dubai on 8 October 2021. An event of massive global recognition, Expo 2020 Dubai enabled athletes and Unified partners to compete in a one (1)-day AirBadminton tournament that continued the push for inclusion generated by Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.
AirBadminton, introduced by the BWF in late 2019, is a relative of traditional badminton played with an AirShuttle—an outdoor shuttlecock that allows for better outdoor play, further increasing the accessibility of the sport for all.
At the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Special Olympics and the BWF signed a Memorandum of Understanding, demonstrating their joint commitment to increasing high-quality badminton play for athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID). Special Olympics UAE’s feature at Expo 2020 Dubai is a testament to how this partnership has increased both parties’ impact on an international scale. Poul-Erik Høyer, president of the BWF, spoke of the partnership’s evolution.
“We are extremely pleased with the continued growth of badminton within the Special Olympics movement globally. The Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi and the development of a new global development strategy between the BWF and Special Olympics International have been catalysts for this tremendous growth, which we believe will continue for many years.”
A product of strong partnership between SOI and the BWF, Expo 2020 Dubai provided high-quality badminton play in a fun environment for Special Olympics UAE athletes. Expo 2020 Dubai’s large platform broadcasted Special Olympics’ commitment to inclusion, exhibiting the unifying power of sport across a wide audience.
“Inclusion and opportunities to participate in sport is a fundamental right for everyone, including people with a disability,” Høyer commented. “I would like to congratulate Special Olympics UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai and UAE Badminton Federation for their continued dedication and support of badminton, and to providing opportunities for the local and international community to experience our sport.”