Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi is a sign of progress

Article Image

Nina Al Rifai has high hopes for the Special Olympics World Games, where she will represent Bulgaria.

Posted: Mar 14, 2019 3:30 PM
Updated: Mar 14, 2019 3:30 PM

Before they met and became friends in Washington last December, Tori Martin and Mubarak Al Darmaki grew up in different worlds.

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.

Tori and Mubarak both love sports, but they are also bound by something else that crosses all cultures and borders. They are among the 200 million people around the world who have an intellectual or developmental disability.

This week, they will represent their respective nations at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. They will carry with them a hunger for inclusion and dignity that burns within all people, a hunger that's now on the global agenda, an agenda that's led by people with intellectual disabilities that will benefit everyone.

The Middle East has lagged behind the rest of the world in respecting the needs and potential of people like Mubarak and Tori. But the tide is turning. Cultural and social barriers are being overcome.

A vivid example of progress will begin when more than 7,500 athletes from more than 190 countries — a record for Special Olympics -- will join Tori and Mubarak in the United Arab Emirates. The games in Abu Dhabi are the first World Games to be held in the region, and the biggest ever.

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.

The 2019 World Games represent a milestone, but there is much more to do. Fifty years after Special Olympics began in Chicago, the movement continues to strive for a better world.

But even in wealthy nations, people with intellectual disabilities face daunting injustice. They are sicker than the rest of the population and their lives are shorter, because their medical care is worse. They are more isolated and lonely. They are more likely to be bullied and humiliated in school and far less likely to hold meaningful jobs. Though they are leaders of great courage and kindness, their gifts have gone unnoticed, their efforts unrewarded.

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.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 97471

Reported Deaths: 3618
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17834521
Cuyahoga13141491
Hamilton9374252
Lucas5155320
Montgomery417487
Summit3433218
Marion291045
Butler282262
Mahoning2477254
Pickaway237842
Stark1766137
Warren171136
Lorain168977
Columbiana161860
Trumbull1481105
Fairfield130931
Delaware126319
Licking120247
Clark111514
Lake107338
Wood99358
Clermont89211
Medina88735
Miami81137
Tuscarawas76214
Portage74361
Allen69942
Greene65611
Belmont59226
Richland58911
Mercer57313
Erie55627
Ashtabula55045
Geauga54844
Wayne51958
Ross4444
Huron3885
Ottawa36825
Sandusky36316
Darke36027
Athens3531
Hancock3533
Madison34910
Holmes3266
Lawrence2420
Auglaize2395
Union2331
Jefferson2192
Muskingum2151
Scioto2111
Putnam19917
Washington19822
Knox1917
Seneca1903
Coshocton1886
Shelby1774
Preble1762
Crawford1715
Morrow1652
Hardin15912
Clinton1586
Champaign1571
Highland1461
Fulton1441
Logan1402
Ashland1373
Wyandot1368
Defiance1334
Williams1303
Brown1232
Perry1163
Guernsey1147
Hocking1149
Henry1132
Carroll1105
Fayette1090
Monroe9118
Pike750
Jackson730
Van Wert701
Paulding640
Gallia621
Adams592
Meigs330
Vinton302
Morgan230
Harrison221
Noble170
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 66°
Angola
Clear
63° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 63°
Huntington
Few Clouds
59° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 59°
Decatur
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
61° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 61°
Sunny, Pleasant Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events