JAMAICA’S delegation to the 2019 Special Olympics Summer Games in the United Arab Emirates departed the island early yesterday ahead of the opening ceremony set for March 14.
The Special Olympics Jamaica (SOJ) contingent is numbered at 98 — comprising 73 athletes, 22 coaches, two officials and a medical representative.
They will be based in the city of Al Ain for the host town programme until the official start of the Abu Dhabi Games.
The host town programme offers the opportunity for delegations to enjoy local hospitality, customs and culture, and helps to spread awareness of intellectual disabilities and promotes the Special Olympics spirit.
It also allows athletes to become familiar with their new environment before competition begins.
The Jamaicans are set to compete in athletics, bocce, roller skating, swimming, unified badminton, unified basketball, unified football (men’s and women’s teams), and unified volleyball (men’s and women’s teams).
The Jamaican team raked in 29 medals at the 2015 Summer Games in Los Angeles, United States. They were also a huge hit at respective Winter Games in South Korea in 2013 and in Austria two years ago.
Through sport activities and competition, the Special Olympics movement focuses on breaking down barriers that exclude people with intellectual disabilities from mainstream society.
Unified competition provides athletes with intellectual disabilities the chance to compete alongside and against those without disabilities.
Intellectual disabilities can either be acquired or genetic, and can include cases of cerebral palsy, Down syndrome, autism, and traumatic brain injury.