‘Flame of hope’ lights up Special Olympics World Games

The Special Olympics World Games kicked off in Abu Dhabi with a colorful opening ceremony at the Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday.

Special Olympics

The Special Olympics World Games got off to a colorful opening ceremony on Thursday.   -  Stan Rayan

Everything at the Special Olympics World Games, which had a colourful opening ceremony at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Thursday night, has been carefully chosen to offer hope to athletes with intellectual disabilities.

The torch is named ‘The Flame of Hope’ and the Games' anthem is ‘Right where I’m supposed to be.'

A few decades ago, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, former American President John F. Kennedy's sister, saw her elder sister Rosemary virtually being pushed into a shell because of her intellectual disability.

That inspired Eunice to help people with disabilities. She offered them hope, helped them feel that they too belonged here and guided them to face the world bravely.

Eunice was the heart and soul of the Special Olympics movement and she felt sports could be platform to unite people. That was how the first Special Olympics was born and the first Games were held in Chicago in 1968.

A lot has changed in the 50 years after the first Games, as Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates showed the world during the opening ceremony on Thursday.

“This will bring us all closer together,” said an athlete from the host nation UAE at the opening ceremony here.

Very thoughtfully, the ceremony had been designed in collaboration with people with learning difficulties, who recited their own poetry and led dance performances during the two-hour show.

There was some lively music from some top names, both from the host nation and outside. 

Over the next few days, 7,500 athletes from nearly 200 sports, will fight for the honours at these Games in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, with a variety of events held in their honour. And there is a concert, aptly named ‘Stand up for Inclusion’ coming in a couple of days here.

(The writer is in Abu Dhabi at the invitation of the UAE Government)