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Star-Studded Opening Ceremonies – US Surgeon General, 2nd Lady and Others Lead US Delegation

This month’s Special Olympics World Games are a defining moment in what has been declared the Year of Tolerance in the United Arab Emirates. As such, tolerance was the theme of several Opening Ceremony speeches. Special Olympics Chairman, Dr. Timothy Shriver, spoke of his late mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, founder of the Special Olympics movement. His speech was at once an emotional testimony to her historic leadership and an urgent call for the world to follow the example of our movement’s current leaders: the athletes of Special Olympics.

 

 

The post-ceremony buzz in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is partly about the star-studded parade of athletes and show stopping music, choreography, technology and special effects. From singer Avril Lavigne and trance DJ Oakenfold to NFL player Jamaal Charles and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, the A-listers were numerous, notable and gracious. But despite their undeniably glittering presence, the ones who stole the show were the athletes who have been dubbed, “the makers.” Their creative vision and collaboration made this year’s Opening Ceremony one that will long be remembered as one of the best and most Unified in Special Olympics’ history. The organizers of the ceremony were early adopters of Shriver’s message. They listened, they included and the result was awe-inspiring.

 

 

The post-ceremony buzz here in Abu Dhabi and Dubai is partly about the star-studded parade of athletes and show-stopping music, choreography, technology, and special effects. From singer Avril Lavigne and trance DJ Oakenfold to NFL player Jamaal Charles and Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera, the A-listers were numerous, notable and gracious. But despite their undeniably glittering presence, the ones who stole the show were the athletes who have been dubbed, “the makers.” Their creative vision and collaboration made this year’s Opening Ceremony one that will long be remembered as one of the best and most Unified in Special Olympics’ history. The organizers of the ceremony were early adopters of Shriver’s message. They listened, they included and the result was awe-inspiring.

As aptly stated by the UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs, Shamma Al Mazrui, we must all learn to be more like our athletes and “see with the eyes of our heart.” In other words, when we zoom in closer to those who are perceived as different and soften our gaze, good things happen.

Both Al Mazrui and Shriver’s speeches struck exactly the same tone—two bold leaders from different cultures, of different genders, from different generations practicing different religions. Yet they both clearly asked us to follow our athletes, the prophets of tolerance, as they show us how to set the world on fire with the Flame of Hope, an open heart and an open mind.

 

 

Check out the procession of the SO USA delegation:

 

Team Values in Action: Integrity

Trading pins from any of the nearly 200 global delegations in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are the most sought after social currency at World Games. Fortunately one need not speak a multitude of foreign languages to partake in the daily trade. In fact, you may not even need pins based on the exchanges that took place in the stands of Dubai Police Officer’s Club Stadium this morning.

 

Miranda Mendoza was a fine ambassador of the USA today. Her one-way pin trades with athletes and coaches from African countries including Kenya, South Sudan, Senegal and Ivory Coast conveyed our team value of Integrity—the state of being whole and undivided. She didn’t care about receiving a trading pin in exchange when asked for an American one. She simply wanted to give a high five, a smile and make a new friend.

 

The world needs more Mirandas. #MeetTheDetermined #Cheer4USA

 

 

Host Town in Dubai Recap

Traveling internationally with 300+ people and lots of baggage is quite a thing. But the kindness of so many along the way made the process extraordinary. JFK Terminal 4 and its many partners provided our entire delegation with a private seated dinner, goodie bags and travel gifts. Once aboard our Etihad flight, we were treated like VIPs. The cabin crew made several announcements about our team and showed in-flight videos promoting World Games to all passengers. Upon exiting the plane we were warmly welcomed by airport and Games organizing committee volunteers to make sure we had water and to escort us through the arrivals process.

 

 

From the moment we exited customs in Abu Dhabi, we were greeted with waiving American flags and friendly faces thanks to the local American expatriate community. Upon exiting the airport, we immediately hopped in buses to be transferred to our Host Town, Dubai.

The hotel was well prepared to welcome us with volunteers. U.S. servicemen from Utah, who are currently stationed in the UAE, were also on hand to help facilitate the check in process and carry our bags.

 

 

Our first day of Host Town consisted of getting settled into our hotel and a trip to Dubai Parks and Resorts, a Hollywood-themed amusement park where we had a blast meeting some of the other international delegations, teambuilding and braving thrilling rides. Our second day began with a visit to GEMS Metropole School comprised of 3,000 students; half of whom are students of determination (the official term in the UAE that refers to students with special needs). There we were treated to a delightful program of songs, dancing, field events and traditional craft making alongside students of all nationalities and ability levels.

 

 

Later in the day, the delegation went to the final Host Town event at the Global Village, an Epcot-like theme park that celebrated the 40+ delegations from around the world hosted in Dubai. It was a wonderful opportunity for our delegation to meet more new friends and of course, trade pins! Athletes also took in songs, dances and watched local craftswomen weave and make jewelry. Many also met representatives from the US Consulate in Dubai who were there to support SO USA and make plans for recognizing our delegation at a National Day celebration that will take place in Dubai later this week. Speeches from local dignitaries, a surprise visit from the Flame of Hope® carried by Final Leg Torch Runners from around the world and exquisite fireworks capped off the last evening.

 

 

By mid-afternoon on the last day of Host Town, the majority of the US delegation departed for Abu Dhabi where 16 of the 18 sports teams will compete. US swimmers as well as track and field athletes will remain in Dubai for competition. Wish us luck as we return our focus to representing the USA on the world sport stage tomorrow!

 

 

 

5 days to go: UAE Prepares for the Games

World Games Schedule & Results

Looking for World Games Results? Look no further!

Click the below graphic to see results for each SO USA athlete.

 

 

ESPN’s Coverage of Special Olympics World Games Begins March 14 from Abu Dhabi

  • Kevin Negandhi to Host Coverage, including Live Opening Ceremony from Zayed Sports City Stadium and Nightly Programs Throughout the 2019 World Games
  • Robin Roberts LIVE in Abu Dhabi; Stories on Good Morning America Thursday, March 14 and 15
  • Nightly 2019 Special Olympics World Games Program to Bring Viewers Stories, Competition Coverage, Interviews and More Throughout the Games
  • Coverage also Includes: More LIVE Daily Streaming Competition Coverage than ever on ESPN3; Extensive News, Video and Information on ESPN.com, ESPN App; Vignette Series Highlighting Athlete Stories

 

ESPN’s coverage of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi will begin Thursday, March 14, with a live three-hour special ESPNEWS, capturing the inspiration, pageantry, performances and special guests of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi Opening CeremonyKevin Negandhi will host ESPN’s coverage of the Opening Ceremony, as well as its nightly studio programming throughout the Games.

ESPN’s coverage of World Games will also include more live coverage of competition than ever before. Working with host broadcaster Abu Dhabi Media, ESPN3 will feature multiple live feeds each day throughout the Games, delivering more than 175 hours of live coverageacross venues and competitions including Track & Field, Swimming, Football, Basketball, Volleyball, Sailing/Kayaking, Equestrian, Powerlifting and more.

SCHEDULE:  2019 SPECIAL OLYMPICS WORLD GAMES ABU DHABI

Day/Date Program Time (ET) Network
Thu, Mar 14 2019 Special Olympics World Games Opening Ceremony 11 a.m. ESPNNEWS
Fri, Mar 15 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 2 a.m. – Noon ESPN3
Sat, Mar 16 2019 Special Olympics World Games 1:30 a.m. ESPNNEWS
LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 1 a.m. – Noon ESPN3
Sun, Mar 17 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 10 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 2 p.m. ABC
Mon, Mar 18 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 11 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Tue, Mar 19 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 11 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 1 a.m. ESPN2
Wed, Mar 20 LIVE Event Coverage from multiple sports & venues 12 – 10:30 a.m. ESPN3
2019 Special Olympics World Games 1 a.m. ESPN2
Thu, Mar 21 2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Fri, Mar 22 2019 Special Olympics World Games 12 a.m. ESPN2
Sat, Mar 30 Best of Special Olympics World Games 3 p.m. ABC

Visit ESPN For More Info.

Special Olympics USA Send Off Celebration In Newark, New Jersey

On March 6 and 7, Special Olympics USA converged on Newark, New Jersey for just over 24-hours marking the team’s final stateside milestone before World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Send-Off festivities included a dinner with Premier Sponsor, Bank of America and an activity fair featuring New York Red Bulls soccer stars and stations designed to interact with volunteers from Bank of America, The Finish Line, ESPN, United, UAE Embassy in Washington DC and Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture.

The Activity Fair also featured the first national Strong Minds experience complete with group meditation, relaxing body scans and Coach’s Playbook stations focused on stress management techniques and an emotional support mantra craft.

WWE personalities, Mandy Rose and Sonya Deville served as celebrity emcees for our Farewell luncheon before the 300+ strong delegation was escorted to JFK airport by NYNJ Port Authority, NJPD and NYPD.

Check out photos from the send off celebration at http://SpecialOlympics2018.Photoshelter.com

 

Katie Hut & Natalie Green: Special Olympics North America Staff-in-Training

Katie Hut and Natalie Green (Kat n’ Nat) will be joining Special Olympics North America (SONA) as staff-in-training during the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019! Hailing from Special Olympics Utah, the team will be reporting stories and contributing to social media from athletic competitions and the Global Youth Leadership Summit.

Kat n’ Nat were selected from a group of youth leaders participating in SONA’s #EKSchallenge, which urged students with and without intellectual disabilities to share their passion for inclusion and to become agents of change by following the example of Special Olympics founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver. As part of the Unified Generation, youth are leading the charge for inclusion of children and adults with intellectual disabilities in schools and communities all over the country. SONA challenged these leaders to write and record a speech sharing what inclusion means to them. Katie and Natalie’s video was selected from the applicants, which earned them the opportunity to attend Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 in March.

Katie and Natalie will work with the Special Olympics communications team to capture activity across all of the events taking place at World Games. They will provide written and social media commentary, interviews, video and daily wrap-ups for sports competitions, Global Youth Leadership Summit, celebrity interviews and local interest pieces. By working closely with the Special Olympics communications team, they will help curate and publish media, as well as highlight Special Olympics North America attendees across all of the World Games events. Messaging focused on the Global Youth Leadership Summit will be to #Innovate4Inclusion. Messaging focused on athletic competition will be to #MeetTheDetermined.

Katie is a senior at Olympus High School in Salt Lake City, and plans to attend Utah State University in the fall with a major in Special Education. She has volunteered with Special Olympics Utah since she was twelve years old. Her dream job is to work for Special Olympics North America.

Natalie is a senior at Real Salt Lake Academy High School in Herriman, where she shares the message of inclusion as a Diversity Officer. She is a Special Olympics Global Messenger for Special Olympics Utah who speaks on leadership, respect, inclusion and her personal experiences as a team member of the inaugural Real Salt Lake Unified soccer team.

It was a mutual passion for inclusion that brought Katie and Natalie together at the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games. They were each selected by Special Olympics Utah to represent the state at the inaugural Youth Leadership Experience in Seattle. Katie and Natalie recognized a special bond as they prepared together for the Games. Their enthusiasm was evident in their volunteering, interviews, job shadowing and social media posts. Following the USA Games, they are helping build and expand the statewide Youth Activation Committee at Special Olympics Utah. They are thrilled at the opportunity to attend the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, participate in the Global Youth Leadership Summit, grow their network, and gain international experience which they can bring back to Utah to share with their community and schools.

About her role, Katie said, “We all want to play, learn, have fun and most importantly have a friend. Inclusion is more than treating people the way that you want to be treated; it’s advocating for change and being a leader. We want to build inclusive communities in our schools, in our workplaces, in our communities.”

We’re thankful to have Katie and Natalie join our SONA team for World Games as part of the #InclusionRevolution!

 

 

VIDEO: We Are Going To Abu Dhabi!

The Flame OF Hope is On Its Way to Abu Dhabi

Yesterday, in a traditional ceremony held in Athens, Greece,  the Flame of Hope was passed to Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

The Flame of Hope, which will travel to the upcoming Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, was lit at Zappeion exhibition hall in the center of Athens, a few steps from the stadium which hosted the first modern Olympics in 1896.

Today, the Flame was collected from the UAE Embassy in Greece and boarded a plane to begin its journey to Abu Dhabi, with members of the Law Enforcement Torch Run accompanying the flame on its voyage to the Games.

The Flame will be transferred to a torch and a team of 112 members, including 89 law enforcement officers, who will carry the torch through towns and villages across the UAE and into Opening Ceremony on March 14.

Included in the 112 member team will be members of Law Enforcement from the US. Two members include Pennsylvania Slate Belt Regional Police Chief David Mettin and Retired Master Sergeant Diane VanderKooy from Illinois.

 

 
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