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!