Special Olympics

Alida Cummings, News Editor

Throughout the world, thousands of unique athletes are waiting for their time to shine in the 2019 Special Olympics to be held in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates.

Despite incredible challenges over the past several decades, the Special Olympics continues to promote inclusion in sports and help those with intellectual and physical disabilities flourish. Once a humble summer camp first hosted in early 1960s, they have since become an international organization comparable to the other Olympics that we watch every two years. They begin with a torch run, where the torch is carried by law enforcement officers of the hosting country for a week until the opening ceremony. According to the Special Olympics website, this tradition will continue with the 2019 Summer Special Olympic World Games, which will begin on March 14 and end on March 21. These will be the first games to be held in the Middle East/North Africa region of the world.

The Special Olympics organization estimates that about 7,000 international athletes will be competing in 24 different summer sports. Add more than 2,500 coaches and 20,000 volunteers, and this Olympic event will certainly be one to remember.

Abu Dhabi is a long way from here, but two athletes from Utah will be there as part of the United States Special Olympic team. One of them, Bret Giebel from Pleasant Grove, will be competing as a swimmer in the 2019 games. In an interview with the Special Olympics organization, he said that he is excited to meet new friends and represent Utah at Abu Dhabi this March. Ryan Dilg, the other athlete from Willard, Utah, will be competing on the track team.

In addition to hosting the official Special Olympic World Games, the Special Olympics organization has local chapters that allow those with intellectual disabilities to be part of a team. They provide dozens of different sports programs headed by volunteer coaches to improve the quality of life for thousands of people. Anyone with a passion for serving these individuals can sign up and serve in these programs. These volunteers and special programs help athletes like Giebel and Dilg improve their skills and qualify to compete on the international level.

This March, be sure to tune in to these historic World Games and cheer on the incredible athletes from Utah and around the world.