Special Olympics and the spirit of inclusion in Abu Dhabi

Author: George Ernest Asare
The four member team who won medals in the USA in 2015

The board of Special Olympics Ghana is gearing up for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games scheduled for Abu Dhabi next month with a total of 7000 intellectually challenged athletes  from over 170 countries converging on the oil-rich city to compete for honours.

The  March 14 to 22  games, described as “the largest sports humanitarian event in the world”, coincides with the 50th anniversary celebrations of Special Olympics International which was formed in 1968 to create a new world of inclusion.

With Special Olympics,all classes of people, irrespective of  their abilities or challenges are accepted, socialised and participate in events designed to harmonise society for accelerated socio-economic development.

Founder

Founded by Eunice Kennedy Shriver [sister of former US President, John F. Kennedy], who had an intellectually challenged sister, Special Olympics sought to be a catalyst to foment change in society where the intellectually challenged person was not looked down upon, but accepted in society.

Shriver saw in Special Olympics a means of using sports as a movement to overturn the status quo, where the intellectually challenged were always kept away from society .

Beside the over 7,000 intellectually challenged athletes who are expected to converge on Abu Dhabi to compete for honours, about 3,000 coaches, an estimated 1,500 officials and 3,000 special guest will be participating in next month’s festival in the Emirati city.

Disciplines & spectators

A total of 500,000 spectators are also expected to fly to Abu Dhabi to cheer the intellectually challenged athletes as they rub shoulders with heir peers for honours in  24 different sports disciplines.

Among the sports disciplines designed to create healthy competition are: athletics, football, beach volleyball, judo, powerlifting, tennis, table tennis and swimming.

Others events are badminton, gymnastics, volleyball, handball, basketball, sailing,cycling, golf and bowling.

Venues

A total of 11 venues have fully been prepared to host the athletes display their talents to send a strong message to the world that in spite of being intellectually challenged, they are blessed with enough potentials that can be tapped to entertain humanity.

Zayed Sports City, Adnec, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi Yatch and Sailing Club, and Mubadala Arena are some of the venues  that had been fine-tuned  to host the intellectually challenged athletes worldwide in the United Arab Emirates.

The rest are Khafa International Bowling Centre, Yas Links Abu Dhabi Golf Club, the Armed Forces Officers Club, Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and Corniche.

Team Ghana

After winning four silver medals in athletics during the 2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games held in Los Angeles, Special Olympics Ghana look poised to perform better than what they did four years ago in the United States.

So far, a total of 16 intellectually challenged athletes have been camped and are feverishly preparing for the Abu Dhabi games.

The athletes include Habib Haruna from the Yumba Special School in Tamale,  Tetteh Ametorwosi from the Gbi Kledzo Special School at Hohoe, Lawrencia Ababio from the Garden City Special School in Kumasi and Hannah Dantakor from the Twin City Special School in Takoradi. The four athletes will participate in the 100 metres and 200 metres events.

The 10 others selected to compete in seven-a-side football are Justice Zidah, Prince Kweku Kye, Samuel Ackon, Kenneth Koomson, Samuel Essien, Isaac Brew, John Afoh, Hamza Mohammed and Suleman Ibrahim -- all from the Twin City Special School in Takoradi.

The rest are team captain Isaac Otchere; silver medallist in the 100m and 200m races at the 2015 games; Adnan Adamu,  and Constant Hevi -- all from the Dzorwulu Special School in Accra.

The Ghana team were picked after a three-day national sports festival involving special schools in Ghana held  at the El Wak Stadium in Accra last June.

Medals
Speaking to the Graphic Sports, a board member of Special Olympics Ghana, Nana Wereko Ampim-Opoku, said but for financial constraints, Ghana would have competed in more than two sports disciplines.

“We have the human resources to compete very well and excel in handball, volley, basketball and tennis, but we lack the financial resources to carry a large contingent to Abu Dhabi and compete for honours in these disciplines,” he lamented.

Nana Ampim-Opoku said the 16 athletes, who were  in camp at the Twin City Special School in Takoradi, have now been moved to the Dzorwulu Special School in Accra to fine-tune their preparations and also to strategies to win a lot of medals for Ghana in Abu Dhabi.

“We are committed to keep them in camp to prepare them well for the games so we can realise our goals of winning gold medals in both football and athletics.” He assured

Nana Ampim-Opoku appealed to corporate organisations and individuals to support the board financially as they prepared the team for the Abu Dhabi Games.

“We will soon come to you to support us financially to enable us prepare the team very well, fly them to Abu Dhabi, participate in the games and win medals for Ghana.”