Abu Dhabi: The Special Olympics UAE will be re-established as an independent association under the Ministry of Community Development, according to directives by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai.

The move comes after a series of meetings with representatives from Special Olympics International, the international governing body of the Special Olympics movement and is in line with best practices of creating a more independent and robust organisation which is focused on building a legacy for Special Olympics athletes who are citizens and residents of the UAE.

Shaikha Mariam Bint Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan will serve as Honorary Chair of the newly restructured organisation, with Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Youth serving as Chair of the board.

The newly established organisation will be based in Abu Dhabi and will work closely with the Local Organising Committee of the Special Olympics World Games 2019 in an effort to share resources and build on synergies leading up to the Special Olympics World Games 2019.

Najla Al Awar, Cabinet Member and Minister of Community Development, said: “This restructure is in line with the Ministry’s commitment and strategy of empowering people of determination. Abu Dhabi has been at the forefront of driving positive political, legislative and educational changes around people of determination and we seek to address their marginalisation through educational programmes and understanding.

“The Games will serve as a catalyst to make large scale societal changes in the country and the region. Our commitment to inclusion is unwavering and we have appointed a Special Olympics athlete on the board, to make sure that this board is fully inclusive and is there to serve the people we set it up to serve.”

Shamma Al Mazrui, Minister of Youth, added: “Abu Dhabi seeks to move perceptions of people of determination and marginalised citizens to empower and encourage them to be equal and integrated members of the community through its vocal support for change. An independent board will allow us to focus on building a legacy for those Special Olympics athletes.”

Mohammad Abdulla Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “This move will help us to ensure that we have the very best UAE athletes competing in Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019. The success of the Games is fully dependent on the success of the Special Olympics programme and an independent association allows us to ensure the programme is of the highest standard.”

The board members include Aisha Abdulla Miran, Assistant Secretary General, Strategy Management and Governance, Executive Council of Dubai; Talal Al Hashemi, Technical Director of Abu Dhabi Sports Council and ZHO Board Member; Mariam Al Meheiri, CEO of TwoFour54 Media Zone, Mohamad Al Neaimi, Director, Education Office and Crown Prince Court; Ebrahim Abdul Malek, Under Secretary, General Authority for Sports and Youth; Tala Al Ramahi, Chief Strategy Officer, Special Olympics World Games 2019; Reem Al Fahim, CEO of Sedra Foundation; Butti Al Sheezawi, Special Olympics Athlete; Fatma Al Qassimi, Manager, Students Accessibility Services Department at Zayed University; Ayutka Thakur from the Integreted Centre for Special Needs, representatives from both Sharjah City for Humanitarian services and Shaikh Saud Bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research and Saeed Al Neyadi.