Dubai: Some of the most iconic figures in the sport — including Pep Guardiola and Gareth Southgate — have come together to deliver the ultimate team talk ahead of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.
The cast of sporting superstars shine a light on intellectual disability and highlight even those we now deem to be invincible have had to overcome their own challenges.
Titled the ‘Rallying Cry’, the film precedes Special Olympics GB’s departure to Abu Dhabi, where the 128-strong squad will compete in 17 Olympic style sports.
They fly from Heathrow on Friday and the World Games runs from March 14-21. It will be the largest sports and humanitarian event taking place in the world this year. Over 7,500 athletes from nearly 200 countries will take part.
The film focuses on Special Olympics athletes and features a star-studded line-up of sporting stars each reading lines from Walter D Wintle’s rousing poem ‘The Man Who Thinks He Can’. The full cast features football legend and Manchester City manager, Pep Guardiola, England football manager Gareth Southgate, Olympic and Paralympic gold medallists Jade Jones, Ellie Simmonds and David Weir, Olympic figure skater and Special Olympics board member Michelle Kwan, former boxing World Champion David Haye and former England and Arsenal footballer Alex Scott.
Ellie Simmonds, five-time Paralympics gold medallist and Rallying Cry participant, said: “Sport has transformed the way I see the world and the way that the world sees me. It’s obviously my profession, but it’s also so much more than that — helping to define and shape who I am today. I was only 13 when I went to my first Paralympic Games and it introduced me to new friends, new experiences and new cultures. The athletes heading to Abu Dhabi for the World Games have this all to look forward to and I know just how excited they’ll be. And, while I wish them all good luck, I’m obviously rooting for everyone in the GB Team!”
Kiera Byland, cyclist and one of the 128 GB athletes competing at the World Games, added: “The Special Olympics has been life-changing for me because I experienced bullying in my school. All I wanted was friends, but other people thought it was fun to pick on me all day. I felt vulnerable and would hide in the toilets. I desperately wanted to get into sports — but I wasn’t very good at anything that needed hand-eye coordination as I have dyspraxia and I struggle with balance.
“The biggest thing the Special Olympics has done for me is to give me a platform to have confidence and to make friends. I’m part of a global family, and each of us within that family has been given a voice. We feel valued.”
Khalfan Al Mazrouei, Managing Director of the Special Olympics World Games, said: “The World Games in Abu Dhabi is a way of working together towards a common goal of promoting global awareness about the importance of inclusion and tolerance for people with intellectual disabilities. It’s great to see these prominent sporting leaders showcasing what it is to be part of a truly unified team and encouraging everyone to join our movement. Abu Dhabi will shortly welcome thousands of athletes and the World Games and we cannot wait to showcase the world and humanity at its brilliant best.”
Tim Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, concluded: “We are grateful for the tremendous support these sporting heroes have given us to help celebrate and raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities. I’m proud to be a part of an amazing movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sport for people with intellectual disabilities. The Rallying Cry video symbolises the continuation and evolution of the Special Olympics mission — to tackle the inactivity, stigma, isolation, and injustice that people with intellectual disabilities face.”