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Special Olympics World Summer Games 2019: A brief introduction

FEATURED COLUMNIST
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440   //    27 Feb 2019, 21:35 IST

Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi
Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi

The city of Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates will play host to the forthcoming edition of the Special Olympics World Summer Games 2019.

A total of around 7000 athletes from 170 countries will participate in the mega-global extravaganza which will be held at the Zayed Sports City Stadium between March 14 and March 21.

What are the Special Olympics?

The Special Olympics World Summer and Winter Games are global sports events for athletes with intellectual disabilities organised by the Special Olympics sports organisation.

Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver in the year 1968, the IOC-recognised sports body has been actively involved in conducting training camps and competitions for athletes with intellectual disabilities around the world.

The Special Olympic events were hosted in cities across the United States until the Summer Games moved to Dublin in 2003. China became the first Asian host of the Special Olympics World Summer Games when the competition was held in Shanghai in 2007.

How are the Special Olympics different from the Paralympics?

Both the Special Olympics and Paralympics provide an opportunity for athletes with disabilities to showcase their talent on the world stage, but there are significant differences as well.

While the Paralympics involve athletes with a wide range of physical (and intellectual) disabilities, the Special Olympics focus only on sportsmen and women with intellectual disabilities.

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Moreover, the Paralympics are held the same year and in conjunction with the Olympic Games while the Special Olympics are not.

What are the sporting disciplines that have been included this year?

It all began with three official sports - floor hockey, swimming, and track and field when the Games began in 1968 in Chicago.

Things have come a long way indeed and the Games at Abu Dhabi will witness sporting action involving 24 disciplines.

Athletics, Basketball, Badminton, Beach Volleyball, Bocce, Bowling, Cycling, Equestrian, Football, Golf, Gymnastics (Artistic and Rhythmic), Handball, Judo, Kayaking, Open Water Swimming, Power Lifting, Roller Skating, Sailing, Swimming, Table Tennis, Triathlon, Volleyball have been included this time around.

Special Olympic competitions take into account the ability of each athlete with the aid of determiners such as entry scores and results of seeding rounds so as to enable each individual to compete with another who has similar abilities.

Top athletes to be in attendance

Brazilian legends Romario and Cafu who charmed the footballing world with their mesmerising skills will be at Abu Dhabi to cheer on the athletes alongside Didier Drogba of the Ivory Coast.

Olympic gold medallist, Vladimir Gribic, who helped Serbia win the volleyball title at Sydney 2000 will also be present, as will American speed skater Apolo Ohno and figure skater Michelle Kwan.

Indian athletes at Abu Dhabi

Special Olympics India was launched in 1987 and later rechristened as Special Olympics Bharat in 2001.

At Los Angeles in 2015, the Indian athletes did the nation proud by bagging a total of 173 medals (47 gold, 54 silver, and 72 bronze) and ended third after the United States and China.

The Special Olympics Bharat Preparatory Camp for this year's games brought together over 400 athletes and 129 coaches many of whom have moving tales to tell.

Priyanka Dewan from Delhi overcame a troubled childhood and parental separation to blossom into a medal-contender for India in roller skating after her skills were developed and nurtured by the SO Bharat team which she joined in 2007.

The story of Nitesh Singh from Delhi is equally inspiring. After bouts of dull and aggressive behaviour as a child, he was largely misunderstood and also had a fear of water bodies but a stint at SO Bharat changed all that.

A much-needed boost in his confidence levels led to him to get involved in Cycling and Badminton. Nitesh will represent the country in Cycling at Abu Dhabi 2019.

The Games at Abu Dhabi will be the first to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region and will begin with a spectacular opening ceremony on March 14.

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