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Special Olympics World Summer Games kick off

New Zealand’s delegation to the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi have taken part in a spectacular Opening Ceremony and are preparing to compete against nearly 7000 of their international counterparts.

The New Zealand team includes 38 athletes with intellectual disabilities, five ‘Unified Partners’ (athletes without an intellectual disability), and 21 coaches, managers and support staff. Over the coming week the team will compete in in swimming, athletics, bocce, equestrian, basketball, bowling, powerlifting and football at the biggest sports and humanitarian event staged anywhere in the world in 2019.

Special Olympics New Zealand Chief Executive Carolyn Young said the team was treated to an amazing three-hour Opening Ceremony that saw 6,943 athletes parade through the Zayed Sports City Stadium from more than 190 countries. The ceremony included a super low pass by an Etihad jet, pyrotechnics and a light show, inspiring words from Special Olympics International Chairman Tim Shriver, and video clips of founder Eunice Kennedy Shriver.

The New Zealand team was led into the stadium by Rotorua basketballer Ruaumoko Pukepuke who wore a traditional korowai.

“The true stars of the show were the athletes as they entered the stadium, led in true Olympic fashion by Greece,” Carolyn said.

“They were supported by a DJ mixing up the dance music and the high energy will no doubt sustain the athletes through the next seven days of competition. The theme of the night was one of how you can change the world through tolerance and bring light, joy and determination.

“The entrance of the Special Olympics Flame was spectacular and included six athletes passing on the flame to the next athlete and then they all lit the flame together to symbolise the start of the Games!”

Today a number of NZ athletes are competing across basketball, football, bocce, ten pin bowling, equestrian, and swimming.

Read more about the New Zealand team at

Photos from the Opening Ceremony are available at

© Scoop Media

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