Abu Dhabi: A host of celebrities and sporting icons will join People of Determination from around the world as they showcase their skills at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, to be held from March 14 to 21.
While some stars will be performing at the opening ceremony at Zayed Sports City Stadium on March 14, others will be in the UAE to show their support, and love, for an inclusive society.
More than 7,500 athletes from 190 nations will take centre stage in the traditional Athlete Parade on the opening night.
The ceremony will also see the lighting of the cauldron that will officially mark the opening of the World Games when ‘the Flame of Hope’ completes its final journey into the iconic Zayed Sports City stadium.
Here are all the famous people you can expect to see during the eight-day event:
The Canadian pop star will be one of the performers in Abu Dhabi at the opening ceremony. Lavigne, whose song ‘Fly’ was used as the theme for the Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles in 2015, has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. She released her sixth studio album ‘Head Above Water’ last month after a five-year gap. The 34-year-old started The Avril Lavigne Foundation in 2010 to support young people living with serious illnesses or disability.
“I am so excited to come to Abu Dhabi. I have been working with the Special Olympics for a number of years and this will truly be an incredible experience performing at the largest and most unified Special Olympics World Games ever held,” Lavigne said in a statement. “These athletes are so inspiring and they are a huge part of what we believe in and support through The Avril Lavigne Foundation. I want to shine a light on their courage and determination and I am honoured to have been invited to help support them.” Luis Fonsi
The man behind 2018’s biggest song, ‘Despacito’, will join Lavigne at the opening ceremony. Fonsi has performed in the UAE before, but this will be his first appearance in the country at a major event. The Puerto Rican singer’s video for ‘Despacito’, featuring rapper Daddy Yankee, last month become the most watched video ever on YouTube with more than six billion views. The Spanish-language hit, whose English title is ‘Slowly’, has had nearly two billion views more than its nearest challenger, ‘Shape of You’, by the British singer Ed Sheeran.
A regular to the UAE, the veteran DJ is has provided more than 100 remixes for more than 100 widely-acclaimed artists during his illustrious career. Oakenfold, who will also perform at the opening ceremony, is a three-time Grammy Award nominee and was voted the No 1 DJ in the World twice in 1998 and 1999 by DJ Magazine.
What’s an Abu Dhabi event without a bit of Arab flavour? The Egyptian pop sensation, actor and certified hearthrob will join international stars at the opening ceremony. Since his solo debut with the album ‘Hob’ in 2004, Hosny is now one of the successful Arab artists, known for his romantic music, and is often called the ‘King of the Generation’ by his fans. Hosny left his footprint at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood, California, in 2017, making him the first ever Arab artist to get the honour.
The Syrian musical legend is a multi-genre artist, and will add her voice to the opening ceremony on March 14. Nasri first sang at the age of four (the theme song of the cartoon show ‘Hekayat Alamiyah’), but debuted in 1991 with the hit album ‘La Ta’rafou’, featuring songs in the oriental operatic tarab style. She has more than 20 albums to her name in several genres, including classical Arab operettas, Khaleeji and mainstream pop.
Hussain Al Jasmi
Arguably one of the most well-known musical personalities to come out of the UAE, Al Jasmi, who will also join the opening ceremony, performed at the Vatican in December last year, ahead of Pope Francis’ visit to Abu Dhabi in January. One of the high-profile faces of the UAE’s Year of Tolerance activities, the singer has been actively promoting the theme around the world.
“[I was] born locally and became an international singer where my voice brought together different cultures. The UAE was and still is a major player in supporting art and culture, together for a better humanity,” he said. “Our goal is to promote good and to foster dialogue and tolerance between all religions and people in an upscale form.”
The American singer, songwriter and television personality is a global ambassador for the Special Olympics since 2015. Scherzinger, who has performed in the UAE many times before, has a close connection to the event due to growing up closely with her aunt, who has Down syndrome. Beamon, who still holds the Olympic world record for Long Jump, has been heavily involved in promoting and supporting Special Olympics for several years. Scherzinger, who says gymnastics is her favourite sport to watch at the Special Olympics, says the event is an essential forum. “It’s a community which can be as small as your local town but operates on a global scale. It promotes health and fitness and provides opportunities to explore a multitude of sports. The athletes grow and thrive in an environment that celebrates peoples differences and promotes everyone’s unique abilities,” she told the UK’s Enable magazine in 2018. Fans can catch Scherziner at various events during the event.
The Panamanian singer and actress is one of the top songwriters from Latin America, and also co-wrote the Luis Fonsi hit ‘Despacito’. Ender is the youngest person ever inducted into the Latin Songwriter’s Hall of Fame and has received multiple awards at the Latin Grammys and Billboard Awards. Ender was named a Special Olympics ambassador last year. In her new role, she has helped to advance the inclusion of, and end discrimination against, people with intellectual disabilities.
“I see this world as one big home called Planet Earth and I see us humans, as one big family called the human race. We are all the same. And if we all could see and feel life with love and kindness, this world would be a paradise,” she said in a statement.
A number of non-sporting events will also take place during the Special Olympics. The Cultural Olympiad, will see a series of community-focused activities aimed at creating long-term positive change for People of Determination and ensuring that thousands of athletes coaches, families and spectators are not short of activities to participate in alongside watching the sporting competitions. Here are some of them:
Special Olympics Festival
Located at three of the Games’ main venues — ADNEC, Zayed Sports City and Hamdan Sports Complex — the festival will play host to a series of games and arts and crafts activities. There will also be a virtual reality digital zone, a kinetic energy-powered games, opportunities to purchase Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 merchandise, monopoly games and trampolining sessions with Bounce.
Inclusive Art Exhibition
The Inclusive Art Exhibition will be open for visitors and will take place from March 16 to 28. Seven paintings, which have been painted by recognised artists, in collaboration with People of Determination, will be on display.
Play and Live Unified
From March 15 to 20, zones of Play and Live Unified, which encourages people with and without intellectual disabilities to play team sports together, will be located throughout several Games venues. Fields of play featuring 7-a-side football clinics will take place on competition days along with friendly matches with athletes and guests. There will also be 16 Unified Sports experiences across five Games venues in Abu Dhabi (the full schedule on the website), this will include matches, races, tournaments and team competitions. A series of community events, demonstrations and clinics will also take place across Abu Dhabi.
Tickets to the opening ceremony is Dh100. Access to all other activities is free, but registration is recommended. Go to www.meetthedetermined.com.