ABU DHABI: The Special Olympic World Games - a global meet specifically for athletes with intellectual disabilities - is currently underway in the United Arab Emirates. The event began on Mar 14 and is set to end on Mar 21.
At least 7,500 athletes from more than 190 nations will feature in this edition, the largest number of participants in the event’s history.
At the Special Olympics, athletes are not excluded based on qualifying scores. Rather they are separated into different divisions based on factors such as their age, gender as well as level of ability. They then compete in these divisions.
This is the first time the meet is held in the Middle East. The Special Olympics began as a summer camp for children with special needs, founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the sister of former US President John F Kennedy.
Called Camp Shriver, the idea began to grow and the first International Summer Olympic Games were held in Chicago in 1968.
The tagline of this edition of the Special Olympics is "Meet the Determined", which celebrates the abilities of athletes and aims to change perception of intellectual disability.
This year marks Singapore’s tenth occasion participating in the Special Olympics. The Republic finished with 12 gold, 11 silver and nine bronze medals during the previous edition in Los Angeles.
The opening ceremony of the Special Olympics was held at Zayed Sports City on Wednesday (Mar 14).
Among those performing at the opening ceremony were singers Avril Lavigne and Luis Fonsi.
A total of 24 different sports will be contested at the Special Olympics across nine venues in two cities - Abu Dhabi and Dubai.