Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi is a sign of progress

Article Image

16-year-old Briton Conor Conway is set to compete in the 1,500 open-water-swim at the Special Olympics World Games.

Posted: Mar 14, 2019 4:00 PM
Updated: Mar 14, 2019 4:00 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: 77565

Reported Deaths: 3105
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion16304733
Lake7840283
Elkhart499287
Allen4103164
St. Joseph368183
Hamilton2941104
Vanderburgh208215
Hendricks1972109
Cass18099
Johnson1800119
Porter139139
Clark133350
Tippecanoe126312
Madison104866
LaPorte95730
Howard93865
Kosciusko87212
Bartholomew84447
Floyd83750
Marshall80123
Monroe77732
Delaware76852
Vigo75213
Dubois71812
Noble70829
Boone70446
Hancock69439
Jackson6065
Warrick60030
Shelby57228
LaGrange56910
Grant53230
Dearborn52228
Morgan49235
Henry46020
Clinton4564
Wayne40210
White38011
Montgomery36321
Lawrence35827
Harrison35524
Decatur34732
Putnam3288
Daviess28420
Miami2792
Scott27810
Jasper2592
Greene25634
Franklin24915
Gibson2434
DeKalb2424
Jennings23212
Ripley2208
Steuben2173
Fayette2057
Carroll2033
Perry18813
Posey1810
Starke1817
Orange17924
Wabash1795
Wells1782
Fulton1742
Jefferson1722
Knox1681
Whitley1606
Tipton15416
Sullivan1521
Washington1481
Clay1415
Spencer1393
Randolph1325
Huntington1303
Newton12110
Adams1202
Owen1101
Jay940
Rush914
Pulaski841
Fountain762
Brown752
Blackford662
Pike660
Ohio656
Benton630
Vermillion610
Parke591
Switzerland560
Martin500
Crawford480
Union410
Warren251
Unassigned0207

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 105426

Reported Deaths: 3755
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin19124533
Cuyahoga13999519
Hamilton9917260
Lucas5544324
Montgomery4544101
Summit3712224
Butler307064
Marion295245
Mahoning2644258
Pickaway240442
Stark1931142
Warren187739
Lorain186777
Columbiana169960
Trumbull1578111
Fairfield144933
Delaware137819
Licking136751
Clark121815
Lake115443
Wood110158
Clermont98111
Medina97736
Miami88139
Allen81746
Tuscarawas80114
Portage78063
Greene74212
Mercer66813
Belmont62826
Richland62612
Erie61928
Ashtabula58046
Madison58010
Wayne56759
Geauga56545
Ross5204
Darke42529
Huron4135
Hancock4103
Sandusky40717
Ottawa40527
Athens3642
Holmes3316
Lawrence3230
Auglaize2866
Union2771
Scioto2601
Muskingum2561
Seneca2424
Jefferson2403
Preble2192
Shelby2194
Knox2189
Putnam21517
Washington21222
Coshocton1999
Champaign1922
Morrow1852
Hardin18012
Crawford1775
Clinton1746
Highland1692
Logan1692
Perry1643
Fulton1581
Ashland1563
Defiance1554
Wyandot1559
Brown1502
Williams1393
Fayette1260
Henry1242
Hocking1229
Guernsey1217
Carroll1145
Monroe9418
Pike800
Gallia781
Jackson780
Van Wert732
Paulding720
Adams682
Meigs630
Vinton322
Morgan310
Harrison261
Noble190
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 86°
Angola
Few Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 85°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
82° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 85°
Decatur
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 85° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Van Wert
Clear
81° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 64°
Feels Like: 84°
Storm Chances Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events