More than 7,500 athletes from 190 countries, including 215 athletes representing Special Olympics USA, marched into Zayed Sports City Stadium on Thursday for the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is highlighting a year of tolerance, and that was clear from this year’s Opening Ceremony. Words like compassion, inclusion, and acceptance filled the speeches and songs that were performed. With over 40,000 people cheering in support of the athletes and the 50th Special Olympics World Games, this year is looking to be the best one yet.
“The UAE’s partnership with Special Olympics is a global expression of our commitment to ensuring that we are one of the world’s most tolerant, inclusive and will powered nations,” Shamma bint Suhail Al Mazrui, UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs, said in her Opening Ceremony speech.
“The elements of inclusion are all around us – empathy, genuine care for others, seeing with the eyes of our hearts and the eyes of our mind. You simply need to make these invisible elements come to life, just like chemistry. The Special Olympics gives the world a remarkable experience of inclusion, because it loves everyone.”
Musical acts who performed included Avril Lavigne and Luis Fonsi.
Prior to the Opening Ceremony, the U.S. delegation spent time with WWE Chief Brand Officer Stephanie McMahon. Among them was Special Olympics Southern California golfer Faith Demos.
Meanwhile, SOSC tennis player Mark Hanson was among the U.S. athletes alongside Robin Roberts on Good Morning America.
Here’s what social media had to say about the Opening Ceremony:
— Special Olympics (@SpecialOlympics) March 14, 2019
It was such an honor performing the new @SpecialOlympics anthem with @LuisFonsi and many other incredible musicians at the Special Olympics @WorldGamesAD Opening Ceremonies! Good luck everyone 💙 #MeetTheDetermined pic.twitter.com/fm1xZrPijG
— Avril Lavigne (@AvrilLavigne) March 14, 2019
The @SpecialOlympics parade of athletes just concluded which means the @WorldGamesAD Opening Ceremony program is starting. If you’ve never seen it, prepare to be wowed. #MeetTheDetermined pic.twitter.com/KgXPziqtsZ
— Jen Lada (@JenLada) March 14, 2019
— Special Olympics USA (@specialolyUSA) March 14, 2019
What’s Already Happened
Multiple athletes have and will continue to compete in divisioning rounds, which helps determine their proper placement for medal rounds. SOSC athletes Mark Hanson, Krystal Johnson and Jonathan Pierce are among those who have already completed such preliminary competition.
On Tuesday, Pierce and the U.S. 4×100 medley team turned in a top time of 5:19.21– more than 9 seconds better than second-place finisher Special Olympics Russia. The U.S. and Russia will be joined by Special Olympics Denmark in Monday’s medal round competition.
For more information on the divisioning process, CLICK HERE.
While official competition for many begins tomorrow, our SOSC athletes will be waiting in anticipation until March 16, when three of our six athletes will begin their World Games competitions in swimming, tennis and track. Tennis match-ups were still being determined at the time of this publication and will be updated accordingly.
Here’s a look at the SOSC athletes’ schedule through the weekend.
Schedule and times are subject to change. All days and times listed below are local Abu Dhabi time, which is 11 hours ahead of Pacific Daylight Time:
- 3:42 p.m.: SWIMMING – Jonathan Pierce (Men’s 100M medley, Division M03)
- 4 p.m.: TENNIS – Krystal Johnson (USA) vs. Lara de Santi (Italy) (LEVEL 4, SINGLES Division F04)
- 5:30 p.m.: TRACK – Sarah Kovacs (Women’s 1,500M run, Division F03)
- 9 a.m: TENNIS – Mark Hanson and Krystal Johnson (USA) vs. Alexander Vislykh and Clara Lehmkuhl (UAE) (LEVEL 4, MIXED DOUBLES Division 02)
- 10 a.m.: TENNIS – Mark Hanson (USA) vs. Yves Logelin (Luxembourg) (LEVEL 3, SINGLES Division M03)
- 10:31 a.m.: SWIMMING – Jonathan Pierce (Men’s 200M freestyle, Division M09)
- 12:10 p.m.: GOLF (divisioning round) – Faith Demos (USA), Johanna Pramstaller (Austria), Jill Connery (Ireland) tee off
- 4:40 p.m.: TRACK – Tyrone Garrett (Men’s 200M run, Division M04)
- 5 p.m.: TENNIS – Krystal Johnson (USA) vs. Mary Eskandar (Egypt) (LEVEL 4, SINGLES Division F04)
- 9 a.m.-12 p.m.: TENNIS – Mark Hanson and Krystal Johnson, final day of mixed doubles level 4
- 9 a.m.-6 p.m.: TENNIS – Mark Hanson (level 3 Division M03) and Krystal Johnson (level 4 Division F04) in continuation of singles play
- 9:40 a.m.: SWIMMING – Jonathan Pierce (4×100 medley relay)
- 11 a.m.: GOLF (divisioning round) – Faith Demos (USA), Sun Young Kim (Korea), Tessa Kathleen Trojan (Canada) tee off
For up-to-date schedule information, visit abudhabi2019.org/schedule.