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Fri 15 Mar 2019 01:39 AM

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Abu Dhabi puts on spectacular show as Special Olympics opens

Thousands pack into Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi for the opening ceremony of the Special Olympics World Summer Games

Abu Dhabi puts on spectacular show as Special Olympics opens
Fireworks shoot out of Zayed Sports City Stadium to celebrate the opening ceremony for the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)

A crowd of thousands, including people of determination, heads of state, dignitaries, VIPs, celebrities and fans, packed into Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi as the Special Olympics World Summer Games opened on Thursday night.

Tim Shriver, chairman of the Special Olympics, thanked Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed and the Games volunteers in his opening speech, state news agency WAM reported.

Shriver said the Games’ 50th anniversary goal was to do nothing less than to unleash a revolution of inclusion that introduces a new type of freedom into the history of humankind.

"We are made to be whole. And we are not made to be despised or rejected. We are made to matter," Shriver said.

"We come to set humanity free from the chains of judgement and exclusion and show the way to the freedom that unifies the world," he added.

A rendition of the official World Games anthem Right Where I’m Supposed To Be was performed by global superstar Avril Lavigne, Luis Fonsi, Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi, Syrian superstar Assala Nasri and Egyptian Tamer Hosny.

More than 1,000 VIPs joined the athletes in a display of inclusivity and unity while the legendary British DJ Paul Oakenfold electrified the stadium with his world-famous selection of uplifting house music.

The name of each country was projected across the stadium’s giant screens and around the stage, with each receiving applause from the crowd.

Thousands of arms were raised to the sky revealing a beautiful collage of LED World Games wristbands, setting the stage for Shriver to deliver his speech which was followed by the arrival of the Flame of Hope.

Carried by athletes from all seven continents and officers from the Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics, the torch circled the stadium before they gathered around a cauldron to light the Special Olympics flame that will burn for the duration.

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