CEO of Special Olympics Abu Dhabi 2019 impressed with the capital's plans

Abu Dhabi is set to host next year's Special Olympics MENA Regional Games as well as the 2019 Special Olympics World Games.

Denzil Pinto
by Denzil Pinto
11th October 2017

article:11th October 2017

Thumbs up: Peter Wheeler (right)
Thumbs up: Peter Wheeler (right)

Peter Wheeler, CEO of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, which will be staged in Abu Dhabi, says they could not have asked for a better city to host the competition as well as next year’s MENA edition.

The capital was awarded the rights to stage the World Games earlier in January. It will see more than 7,000 athletes with special needs and disabilities from 170 nations compete across different multi-disciplines.

Before that, Abu Dhabi will host the Special Olympics MENA Regional Games next year from March 14-23. With more than 1,800 athletes from 33 nations set to compete, the event will act as the dress rehearsal for the elite competition 12 months later.

Yas Marina Circuit was confirmed as the venue for March’s opening ceremony on Tuesday and Wheeler insists the UAE capital ticks all the boxes when it comes to infrustructure and achieving their objectives.

“To be partnering with Yas Marina Circuit really helps the Special Olympics be a place where it wants to be,” he said.

“The World Games gives Abu Dhabi the opportunity to highlight the achievements of the skills and achievements of our athletes. It will raise its profile. To be in a city like Abu Dhabi and have access to world class venues like Yas Marina Circuit, speaks volumes to the mission of the Games.

“The most important thing is the people. The welcoming, the hospititality, the committment, authenticity of the people in the UAE really welcomes the Special Olympics. We could not have found a city or an Emirate or country, that is in perfectly in line with the mission and value of the Special Olympics.”

While it will be the first time the World Games will be held in the Middle East, the MENA edition, which was last hosted in Egypt four years ago, will be staged in the UAE for the third time following Dubai (2006) and Abu Dhabi (2008).

Among the sports on the schedule are cycling, triathlon, football, tennis and bowling with Yas Marina Circuit, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and New York University Abu Dhabi among three of the locations confirmed for both events.

Wheeler is optimistic that any changes will be minor for 2019.

“The MENA Regional Games is a smaller event but it’s the most robust event that has ever been staged for a World Games,” he said. “No other local organising committee has run an intensive test event leading up to the World Games. It will certainly test many things but we will see what we need to refine so that we can put the best possible Games in 2019.”