(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Over 160 athletes of determination from different countries will visit one of the seven emirates to live, eat and breathe true Emirati life as part of the 'Host Town Programme' launched on Wednesday.
The Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics IX MENA Games 2018 and Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, in partnership with the Ministry of Community Development, announced the programme, which is aimed to promote awareness about people of determination and encourage their inclusion into everyday society.
The visiting athletes include those from Burkina Faso, Cote' D'ivoire, Canada, Serendib, Philippines, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Macau, Chinese Taipei, Monaco, Belgium, Russia and Austria. They will take part in various activities such as visits to schools and local families, sightseeing and potentially, a torch ceremony in each city as the Special Olympics 'Flame of Hope' travels across the UAE before making its way to the opening ceremony at Yas Marina Circuit on March 17.
The Special Olympics IX MENA Games will take place from March 14 to 21 and the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will be held from March 14-21, 2019.
"It is a great opportunity to host the world's largest humanitarian sports event in Abu Dhabi," said Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid, Minister of Community Development, during the Press conference to launch of the 'Town Host Programme'.
"This reflects our values and efforts to promote the integration of people of determination into the community and is a reflection of the UAE's efforts to support global trends addressing the difficulties they face in their lives. We hope to change perceptions of people of determination and show that they can excel in many aspects of life through sports."
Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi, chairman of the higher committee of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said the initiative aims to give athletes participating in both the events the opportunity to learn more about UAE culture, customs and traditions.
"The Host Town Programme reflects the hospitality and values of the Emirati nation and we look forward to providing the opportunity for all participants and their families to learn more about the true essence of the UAE and its supreme values of unity, tolerance and co-existence. In addition to promoting solidarity amongst all members of society", Al Junaibi said.
Peter Wheeler, CEO of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: "The Host Town Programme launch is about a creating a powerful cross-cultural exchange programme for citizens and residents of the UAE to meet the special-needs athletes around the world."
He explained that each of the delegations from different countries including the athletes, their coaches and families will be assigned to a different emirate. For instance, a team from Russia will go to Ras Al Khaimah and that from Austria may go to Al Ain.
The initiative organised by the LOC of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi also aims to enhance ties with both private and government entities in all seven emirates.
The Special Olympics World Games event will be the world's largest humanitarian and sporting event of 2019. Nearly 7,000 athletes and 3,000 coaches, representing more than 160 countries, will compete in 24 Olympic-style sports at venues across Abu Dhabi. The Regional Games event will feature more than 1,200 athletes representing more than 30 nations as a special preview to the World Games.
For the regional games, about 200 UAE national athletes of determination will participate in the sports activities while over 300 UAE athletes with special needs will participate in the world games.
Abu Dhabi will be the first city to host the MENA and World Games within a year of each another.
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