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Mohamed bin Zayed, UAE Rulers, world leaders attend opening of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019
(15 March 2019)


A crowd of thousands, including people of determination, Heads of State, dignitaries, VIPs, celebrities, members of the community, families and fans packed into the stadium to watch an incredible live show that weaved together the heritage of the Emirates, the spirit of the Special Olympics, the goals of the Abu Dhabi World Games and the vision of the UAE.

Tim Shriver, Chairman of the Special Olympics, thanked Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the UAE's supportive leadership as well as its people. He also thanked the Games volunteers, families, coaches, sponsors, officials, health care, education and sports leaders as well as the Crown Prince Court – Abu Dhabi and the Local Organising Committee.

Shriver began his speech by telling the audience that the Special Olympics movement may be 50 years old but "we’re only just getting started". He asked the audience to join him, his family, Mary Davis and the Special Olympics international board of directors in thanking the founder of the Games – his mother, Eunice Kennedy Shriver. Shriver described his mother as a steel-willed woman who was razor-sharp smart and a world-class competitor who had a heart that would not tolerate discrimination.

The Chairman of the Special Olympics said Kennedy Shriver would have been overjoyed to see the turnout today in Abu Dhabi. But, he said, her greatest joy would have been to know that each one present at the stadium was a founder too.

He said each one was a "founder" every time they met a brother or a sister who had been excluded, every time they reached across boundaries to play together, every time they resolved to make the world a little more just and inclusive. "You are a founder of the new Special Olympics," he said.

Shriver said the Games’ 50th anniversary goal was to do nothing less than to unleash a revolution of inclusion that introduces a new type of freedom into the history of humankind. He said the Special Olympics movement was dedicated to nothing less than changing the hearts and minds of every human being on earth, to teaching every human being how to see with the eyes of love and with those eyes, to see that are not made to be divided.

"We are made to be whole. And we are not made to be despised or rejected. We are made to matter!" Shriver said. He added that we were not made to sit on the sidelines of life. Instead, we are made to train, to be on the team, to compete, and to win! "We come to set humanity free from the chains of judgement and exclusion and show the way to the freedom that unifies the world," he said.

Centuries ago, the religion of Islam, dedicated to the one, all-powerful, all merciful, all compassionate God, was born here, Shriver said. Then, the sacred words were written: "We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the Descendants and what was given to Moses and Jesus and what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction !"

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