Abu Dhabi: Dozens of athletes with intellectual disabilities took part in a specialist training course to learn how to officiate sporting events at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

The budding referees and game officials attended the launch of the Special Olympics Officials Programme for Athletes (SOOPA), held at the headquarters of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, to get a lowdown on the skills required to become a technical official at next year’s showpiece.

Under the patronage of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019 forms an integral part of a series of planned initiatives to expand opportunities for people of determination and is in line with Abu Dhabi and the UAE’s shared vision of a unified and inclusive society.

Set to take place in 11 venues from March 14—21 next year, the event will see over 7,500 athletes from across the globe compete in 24 officially-sanctioned Olympic-style sports.

SOOPA, the first ever specialist programme of its kind to be launched in the MENA region, falls in line with Abu Dhabi’s commitment to making the World Games the most unified event ever held in the history of Special Olympics.

A total of 30 Special Olympics athletes and former athletes were trained in a host of skills, including learning the rules and regulations of selected sports that will be played at the World Games as well as how to interact with players.

The communication and literary skills of the candidates taking part in the SOOPA training, who are from a range of different nationalities, were also assessed in order for them to be part of the World Games.

Abdulla Al Wahibi, Sport Director at Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, said: “The SOOPA course is an important step in equipping these athletes with the skills and confidence they need to help referee sporting events and become valued members of the Technical Officials Team at the World Games.”