UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

A player from the UAE takes a shot on goal during their handball match against Oman during the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi on March 19, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 March 2018
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UAE champions ‘determination’ tag for Special Olympians

ABU DHABI: The United Arab Emirates, slated to become the first Arab country to host the Special Olympics in 2019, is championing an alternative label for those with special needs: “People of Determination.”
Arab athletes used to being called “special needs” were surprised and excited this week to see welcome signs with the new label at the 9th Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Regional Games in Abu Dhabi.
The term, seen everywhere from handicapped accessible boardwalks to the Abu Dhabi exhibition center, is one the UAE hopes will catch on beyond its borders.
Matar Saeed Al-Naimi, president of the health committee for the 2018 MENA competition, says the games also offer a venue to educate local society.
Groups of Emirati elementary school age children were a fixture at the MENA games, brought in with their teachers to attend various sports events.
“They are still young and they are the future, so it is very important for the UAE to teach this generation who are the ‘people of determination’ and what they are capable of doing,” Naimi told AFP.
“The goal is a united society,” he said.
On Tuesday, the final day of competitions, a basketball match between Iraq and Syria ended with tears, cheers and finally a group photograph.
“I’m happy, very happy. I don’t know how to describe it,” said Naim Asmar, a member of the victorious Syrian basketball team.
Asked whether he preferred they be labelled as special needs or as people of determination, the athlete responded unequivocally.
“People of determination,” he said over and over.
“It means we have willpower! We might even have more than regular people,” he said pointedly.
The team coach, Yasser Al-Yassine, was also thrilled.
“This term is like a push for them — they understand what it means. It’s very motivating. It says, ‘I am a person of determination, so let’s go! I will do, I will train, I will play. If I can’t play, I’ll at least participate.
“It’s a wonderful concept,” said Yassine, whose team was participating in an international competition for the first time in six years.


Syria’s team coach said his players — three from Damascus, three from Aleppo and two from Homs — face challenges in society even as the country’s war has wound down in their own cities.
The confidence they gain at regional competitions and local games is hard won — and easily lost.
“There’s society, the school, the neighborhood — the streets. So maybe I have them once, twice or three times a week for an hour and a half. All the confidence we built in an hour and a half can be destroyed in five minutes,” said Yassine.
“They need to have each other’s backs.”
While the men’s teams from Syria and Iraq shook hands, women’s teams from Pakistan and Algeria faced off on the opposite court.
Kamilia Nihad Metidji, a 26-year-old volunteer with the Algerian team, said the “people of determination” label had surprised her.
“I was very happy that they call them this because I find that — with this word — there is no difference between us and them; between the healthy and the handicap-,” she said, stopping short to correct the terminology:
“The people of determination,” she continued. “It gives them self-worth; it’s super. It means they don’t have to feel different.”
Metidji said she volunteered with the special needs athletes because she wanted them to “feel like there’s no difference between us.”
“I want to give them courage: to show them they can accomplish something; they can win games, they can win medals — they can do everything we do.”


Saudia E-Prix returns to Ad Diriyah with double header

Updated 24 June 2019
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Saudia E-Prix returns to Ad Diriyah with double header

  • The event will take place on Nov. 22 and 23
  • Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year

DUBAI: The Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix is set to bring two races and more global acts in Saudi Arabia on Nov. 22 and 23, adding twice the excitement to a historic event held at UNESCO world heritage site, according to the General Sports Authority of Saudi Arabia (GSA).

“This year we look forward to igniting an even bigger season of motor racing for Formula E, we’re ready to welcome even more international visitors, and create another unforgettable moment for our people,” Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the GSA, said in a statement.

Two major races will take place in this year’s E-Prix, which made its Middle East debut in the Kingdom last year with only one race. Music icons such as David Guetta, Enrique Iglesias, One Republic and the Black-Eyed Peas performed during the event. It was reportedly attended by some 60,000 people.

“This year sees even more teams enter the Formula E championship, with Porsche and Mercedes entering the fray. Last year Ad Diriyah was the launchpad for the new Gen 2 race cars and the exciting Attack Zone innovation. This year will be the first-time drivers will have an additional 10kW of power available when using that Attack Mode, rising from 225kW to 235kW,” Prince Khalid bin Sultan Al Faisal Al Saud, President of the Saudi Arabian Motor Federation (SAMF), said.

“Add to that, a double header – two races instead of one - with a total of 24 cars competing. This will fire up Saudi Arabia’s passion for motorsports and we are ready to welcome Formula E back,” he added.

The GSA is expecting crowds of up to 100,000 people to attend the E-Prix, given the improvements in the visa processing for tourists.

The 2019 Saudia Ad Diriyah E-Prix will be the second year of a 10-year partnership between ABB FIA Formula E and the GSA and the SAMF.