UAE Embassy’s ‘Road to Abu Dhabi’ Spotlights Special Olympics Athletes

Following the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) Embassy in Washington, DC released a short documentary titled Road to Abu Dhabi.

This global sporting event not only made history as the first Special Olympics World Games in the UAE, but the entire Middle East and North Africa region. With over 7,500 athletes from 190 different countries, it also marked the largest and most unified Special Olympics World Games to date. In honor of this historic moment, the UAE Embassy set out to capture the invaluable experience through the eyes of several Special Olympics athletes.

Road to Abu Dhabi gives viewers a rare glimpse into the lives of Special Olympic competitors: Krystal Johnson, a tennis player from Southern California; Ken Richter and Steve Manzone, a unified bocce pair from Connecticut; and Garrett Ford, a powerlifter from Ohio. Through each athlete’s personal story, the film underlines the unique struggles experienced by people with disabilities and the level of determination required to persevere. Spreading a positive message for global inclusion, the UAE Embassy’s short documentary serves to empower aspiring athletes with intellectual disabilities to chase their dreams and reach their full potential.

In March 2020, members of the UAE Embassy, US Congress and several Special Olympics athletes gathered at the United States Capitol for the Road to Abu Dhabi premiere. During the screening, Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba joined Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver to welcome guests. The Ambassador spoke on behalf of the UAE, stating, “The UAE’s commitment to the Special Olympics didn’t end a year ago. It’s just begun. One year later, we continue to actively support the movement.”

Ambassador Al Otaiba has played a major role in the UAE’s long-time partnership with the Special Olympics. From joining the Special Olympics Board of Directors and visiting the Special Olympics USA training camp, to penning an op-ed on the 2019 World Games, he’s reaffirmed his support for this inclusive movement time and time again.

Most recently, he teamed up with Tim Shriver to announce the UAE’s commitment to bringing the Special Olympics Unified Champion Schools (USC) program to six new countries. This initiative was funded by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the United Arab Emirates Armed Forces. As a global leader for tolerance and inclusion, the UAE also plans to bring the USC program to all public schools across the country.

Learn more about the UAE’s strong partnership with the Special Olympics.