Tori, from northern Virginia, learned to swim before she could walk. She began competing in meets. Seven thousand miles away, in Abu Dhabi, Mubarak discovered basketball and honed his skills against players who were bigger, stronger and faster.
We hope they will shine a light on the abilities, accomplishments and untapped power of people who have been marginalized around the world. We hope these games will spark much-needed action to end the discrimination, abuse and neglect these athletes and millions of others endure every day.
After Abu Dhabi was announced as this year’s host city, Special Olympics and the UAE set an ambitious goal: to welcome a delegation from every nation on earth.
Nineteen of the countries competing in Abu Dhabi are sending teams to the world games for the first time.
That growth means many good things. It means there are many more Special Olympics volunteers, staff and competitions than there were four years ago. More countries where people with intellectual disabilities are empowered through sports.
And, most important, more countries where adults and children with intellectual disabilities, along with their families, are involved in their communities, fighting back against discrimination and showing who they really are — leaders who inspire everyone to reach their full potential.
In Abu Dhabi, everyone who tunes in will experience a new reality — a movement for inclusion led by people with intellectual disabilities, and an opportunity for the world to follow this lead. It will be a time of play, of games and cheers and joy.
When Tori and Mubarak compete, they will be global ambassadors, educating people in the Middle East and around the world about the extraordinary gifts and talents of people with intellectual disabilities. Through their talent and skill, these athletes will seek to inspire greater inclusion — and help end the fear of difference that still exists everywhere.
This is why Special Olympics has come to the UAE. To nurture the seeds of progress. To bring many thousands of people together, regardless of nationality, color, faith, gender or intellectual differences, to proclaim that the world must be made a more inclusive place for everyone in it.