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Countdown to the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi; An Amazing Legacy, Special Olympics Push to Include Everyone; More Than 8,400 Saudi Special Olympics Athletes and Partners; Abu Dhabi Games Will Be the First Special Olympics in Middle East. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 4, 2018 - 10:00 ET
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[10:00:00] LYNDA KINKADE, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Lynda Kinkade and this is CNN News Now. Thousands of people are paying their respects right now to
former U.S. President George H.W. Bush. His body is lying in state today in the U.S. Capitol building. There will be a national day of mourning on
Wednesday when the funeral for President Bush Takes Pl. in Washington.
A big reveal is expected today in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will recommend sentencing Donald Trump's former
national security advisor Michael Flynn who pleaded guilty a year ago to lying about his Russian contacts. He's been cooperating with investigators
ever since. Mueller's court filings could detail key information.
France will suspend tax hikes on fuel by six months after more violent protests were being plan for this weekend. The move is being called a
major concession by French President Emmanuel Macron's government. The price hike was due to go into effect on the 1st of January.
Israel has launched an operation along the Lebanon border to destroy what it calls attack tunnels which were dug by Hezbollah. An army spokesman
says the tunnels infiltrated Israeli territory but were not yet functional. Israel calls it a flagrant and severe violation of its sovereignty. And
that is your CNN News Now. I'm Lynda Kinkade. A special edition of "CONNECT THE WORLD" starts right now.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST: Determination, discipline and hard work. The extraordinary effort it takes to carve out monuments like these. Monuments
to self, to country, and more are exactly what it takes to build yourself into an Olympic athlete, and that is why we are here. Marking 100 days
until the start of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. A moment made possible by everybody around me here tonight. The leaders, the
visionaries, the athletes, children, and adults, with learning disabilities and their families. A moment in time we are proud to connect you to here
on CONNECT THE WORLD with me, Becky Anderson.
Well, games happen every two years. Next March they'll be held here. The biggest ever with 192 nations coming along a far cry from their humble
beginnings in the vision of one woman, Eunice Kennedy Shriver back in 1968.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER: In ancient Rome the gladiators went into the arena with these words on their lips. Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be
brave in the attempt.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: The world had never seen anything like it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hugged every single competitor no matter if they finished first or last.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Exactly 50 years ago a revolution. One that many people missed. In Chicago 1,000 children, all with disabilities coming together to play
and do their best. That thousand inspiring millions more from Chicago to Shanghai, Athens to Nagano. More than a tournament. A burning movement
for social change. The flame passed down through the decades still burns on.
Well, a passion that you can see burning brighter than ever in the eyes of all the wonderful people around me, which is why we want to dedicate this
hour to them, and those around the world just like them.
Because sometimes amidst the daily barrage of news and politics, we forget those in society who struggle for rights and inclusion. Who deserve to be
seen, to be heard amongst those here with us tonight. Athlete Chaica Al Qassimi, with her Mohammed Al Junaibi, who is the chairman of UAE Special
Olympics Committee, and a special thanks to his Highness, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, for being with us here, sir, tonight as well.
Mohammed, let me start with you, if I can, sir. Why are the Special Olympics important to the UAE and why now?
MOHAMMED AL JANAIBI, CHAIRMAN, UAE SPECIAL OLYMPICS COMMITTEE: Thank you, first, for CNN, and thank you for the support for the Special Olympics.
Why now? We were expecting this moment. This was built a long time ago by Sheikh Zayed, God bless his soul.
[10:05:02] He had that vision for years to come and thank God we were lucky he prepared the leaders like Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed and Sheikh Al-
Nahyan. And now we are implementing their vision with our leaders that we are lucky with, and it's a shared value. What we have in Abu Dhabi and the
whole UAE is the ideal place for such an event and such a plan to come. We used to look for benchmarking, Becky, but now we are the benchmark.
ANDERSON: Good for you. Just how inspired are you by the many, many special athletes, including Chaica here with us today. How important have
they been to you in insuring that these games go on and that there is a legacy of inclusion left afterwards?
AL JANAIBI: That's the plan, Becky. We have Chaica with us. We have even Ahmed Al Honsani with us. We are not only going to be included. It's not
to their inclusion only. They are going to be the leaders to come. And we will be working with them to support their leadership in such a place.
ANDERSON: Well, that's wonderful. And Chaica, you heard it first from Mohammed there. We are going to talk about your hopes and aspirations and
what you are up to, but, first, let's get our viewers a little taste of what you do during the day. Hold on.
ANDERSON (voice-over): 22-year-old Chaica Al Qassimi, who has down syndrome is a force to be reckoned with. She holds a black belt in karate
and won a bronze medal at the recent Arab karate championship in Cairo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm just using my weight.
ANDERSON: Chaica has practiced not one, not two, but nine forms of martial arts. Something she says has completely changed her life.
CHAICA AL QASSIMI, SPECIAL OLYMPICS UAE TORCH RUNNER: And my transformation when it was definitely interjected, it empowers you and
inspires you to be the best person you can be.
ANDERSON: It's a message Chaica hopes to share on a global stage. She's been chosen as a torch runner in next year's Special Olympics World Games
in Abu Dhabi where she also hopes to serve as a judo official.
AL QASSIMI: The diversely people have a human struggle to enter (INAUDIBLE) and I want to have that.
ANDERSON: Being from one of UAE royal families, Chaica has a great platform to do just that. Her message? It's simple. Having special needs
doesn't need to hold you back in life.
(on camera): So, tell me about your dreams and aspirations. Just how excited are you about these Special Olympics.
AL QASSIMI: My biggest dream is to spread awareness of disability and probably assimilation. This country of the UAE and the other country's
inner region and the global stage to show this is who we are, this is who we've become. We are human beings. We're normal. But we want to show
people this is who we are. We can't change. And we'll fight for what we believe.
ANDERSON: And do you see change happening around you?
AL QASSIMI: Yes, I do. With the mass movement of the Special Olympics coming to Abu Dhabi and seeing different communities coming together and I
have really good friends behind me that has really touched my heart there.
ANDERSON: And we will be talking to many of them tonight. For the time being, thank you very much, indeed. Well, a reminder why we are here
tonight. It's part of a revolution. A revolution of inclusion. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The right to play on any playing field hold. You have earned it. The right to hold a job. You have earned it. The right
to study in any school. You have earned it. The days of separation and segregation are over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: From that message of hope to this, the symbol of it. The burning flame of the Olympics symbolizing that fire in your belly that you
need to be an Olympian. The courage it takes live right here on CNN. We're giving you a sneak peek tonight. The traditional torch procession
going forth with officers flanked by athletes. A Special Olympics tradition since 1981. This flame of hope of all seven Emirates of the UAE
before completing its journey here in Abu Dhabi for the opening ceremony in March 2019.
[10:10:04] How about that?
AL QASSIMI: Very good.
ANDERSON: Great. Listen, here with me, a true living legend joins me. American track and field icon, Bob Beamon, a global ambassador for the
Special Olympics who made history, viewers, with this jump. In 1968 at the Mexico Olympics sailing through the air to take a gold medal, of course,
landing a jump of 20 -- what was it?
BOB BEAMON, GLOBAL AMBASSADOR FOR SPECIAL OLYMPICS: 29 to win it.
ANDERSON: There you go. Destroying the world record by 8.4 meters at the time. A leap of the century, as many of us know. It is half a century,
Bob, since you set that Olympic record. Which folks, by the way, it still stands. Has it sunk in yet?
BEAMON: Oh, every day I think about it. I mean, it motivates me to be better. It's truly a blessing to be associated with Special Olympics.
Because I was there in 1968 when it first started with Eunice Shriver Kennedy.
ANDERSON: Yes, I know, and I was going to point that out. I'm going to swap mikes actually. There you go. Have we got me on this one? Yes, we
have, sir. There you go. You have your own mike now. Very good point. That's half a century ago. Eunice Shriver, a pioneer for people
determination as we now call them. Yourself, over 50 years now motivating people giving them vision. How do you -- how inspired are you by the
Special Olympics in the first instance? What can you do to spread the word?
BEAMON: Well, the first thing that I can say is that how I am so evolved is because my brother was a special Olympian too. So, I've been really
humble and blessed to have been a part of watching Special Olympics grow from '68 to what it is today. It is amazing. And so, what I am going to
do is giving back. I'm going to give these wonderful shoes to all of the Olympians in March for the Special Olympics.
ANDERSON: That is amazing. Chaica, have you seen those? Fantastic. I know this isn't the first time that you have been involved in this event,
of course. I mean, you are absolutely embedded now in what I think we can genuinely call a revolution. But we know there is an awful lot more to do.
BEAMON: Absolutely. You know, as I said before, we have watched how the development over the years has taken place. And it also inspires the other
wants to come along and to be even better. I can tell that you watching my brother from the very beginning when he started in Special Olympics, he was
truly motivated until his end, but I tell you, Special Olympics does so much.
ANDERSON: We are grateful and honored that you are with us here tonight. Just remind our viewers very briefly and, finally, of your own story.
Because Special Olympics is something you've really taken on with a passion. But you've also spent years, years helping youngsters in the
States that are may be more disadvantaged than others. Just briefly tell us your story.
BEAMON: Well, I come from a disadvantaged background, and there are a lot of things that I missed out. And I said, well, if I can ever be of any
assistance to any youngster, any group of youngsters, I certainly have some information that I will pass on to them. It's like passing the torch on to
ANDERSON: Wonderful. With that, we thank you. Stick around. We've got a fantastic show for you, and many, many stories to tell the man, the legend,
the one and only Bob Beamon for you. We're going to take a quick breather now, but we'll be back in a moment with this amazing crowd that I have
around me for a look at how regional attitudes to special needs are shifting. To hear from the athletes themselves and from royalty. We're
connecting it all for you from right here in Abu Dhabi. Home to what will be the first ever regional World Games. Back after this.
[10:15:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TIMOTHY SHRIVER, CHAIRMAN, SPECIAL OLYMPICS: You see this movement that she created almost 50 years ago is not done yet. People with intellectual
disabilities are still routinely hidden, excluded, mocked, made fun of, humiliated. Any parent knows it. Everyone on the stage knows it. We've
got a lot of work to do for equality for the 250 million people who have intellectual disabilities. And we will not stop until we have equality for
250 million people who have intellectual disabilities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANDERSON: Live from Abu Dhabi, welcome back to a very special show for you tonight. You have just heard Timothy Shriver talking about his mother's
legacy 50 years of Special Olympics. But there's still major challenges. Not least in this region where children and adults often still struggle for
rights and acceptance. So, will hosting the World Games here for the first time ever in 2019 help change attitudes? Well, let's try to get to the
bottom of that. Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid is the UAE's minister of community development with us here tonight. Khawla Barley is the co-
founder of Goals UAE, and we'll talk about that wonderful initiative very shortly. Joel Hamilton is a Special Olympics open water swimmer, and we
also have Connor Conway, also a Special Olympics swimmer with his father, John, who is the principal at the Sheikh Zayed Private Academy for Boys.
So, let me start with you lads. Both of you swimmers, how much are you looking forward to the Special Olympics next year?
JOEL HAMILTON, SPECIAL OLYMPICS OPEN WATER SWIMMER: A lot.
ANDERSON: Are you going to win a gold?
ANDERSON: Good. You're not camera-shy, are you?
HAMILTON: I don't know.
ANDERSON: Connor, how is the swimming going?
CONNOR CONWAY, SPECIAL OLYMPICS SWIMMER: It's going good.
ANDERSON: How are you going on get on, do you think, in the Olympics?
CONWAY: I'll swim hard and do my best.
ANDERSON: Excellent. That's exactly what we need to hear from you guys. We're going to move across and talk to the ladies now. It is so important
that there are policies in place, clearly, at this point. Particularly in this region, to help change perceptions. What are you doing as a
HESSA BINT ESSA BUHUMAID, UAE MINISTER OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Well, think you, Becky. Here in the United Arab Emirates, we believe that
inclusion is at the heart of the government work. For that reason, the Special Olympics World Games is a great and excellent opportunity for us to
understand and have -- and reflect back on our government policies. The journey has been amazing.
[10:20:00]I mean, we didn't start the games yet, but a lot of work has been happening on the ground to ensure that we are equipped with the proper
policies that will help insure that this type of set up is a legacy for years to come.
ANDERSON: Give us some examples.
BUHUMAID: One of the most important is the UAE Universal Code for Inclusion. Such a code will insure that all of our buildings, all of our
setups, government, private, schools even, are set up to ensure that people with special needs who we call here at the United Arab Emirates, people of
determination are -- have the right for easy accessibility and have the right to maintain the day to day work and life just as normal people.
ANDERSON: Hala, yours is a very personal story of empowerment. Just tell our viewers about the community initiative that you have been involved in
now for some years. I know it was first of a kind in the GCC here, and are you seeing progress, enough progress at this point?
KHAWLA BARLEY, DIRECTOR, GOALS UAE, AND AUTISM FRIENDLY CHARITY: Yes. Goals UAE, we started five years ago. And it is very personal. My son is
on the autism spectrum, and what I saw five years ago I was concerned. He's very bright. He is very interested, but I was unsure if the society
was ready for him. If he had a place. So, what I tried to do is I saw a lot of goodwill in this community. A tremendous amount of goodwill. But
the initiatives that were going on were very sporadic, and they weren't providing the long-term engagement to really allow children like my son and
many, many others to be able to acquire skills and find out who they are as people. What they like, what they dislike, what their identity will be
like as a person, as an adult.
ANDERSON: Well, Connor and Joel are alumni of the goals UAE program.
BARLEY: Yes, they are part of the TriGoals triathlon team, and they can meet regularly now in community events. Both of them were at the recent
Abu Dhabi Sports Council Triathlon Festival, and you asked earlier about progress. It's phenomenal. I honestly never dreamed that we would be at
this .5 years in. So, it's wonderful to have this launch pad for change.
ANDERSON: Well, that's great to hear. And we should also discuss that this perhaps is the -- provides a benchmark going forward for other
countries around the region who we, quite frankly, know are nowhere close where the UAE is at. You hope, therefore, that these games, the Special
Olympics being held here for the first time in 2019, just 100 days from today, will help inspire others.
John, you hail from the education sector. What more do you believe needs to be done to support children like the boys here? Especially when it
comes to access to schools.
JOHN CONWAY, FATHER OF SPECIAL OLYMPICS ATHLETE: Well, I'm very privileged to be in a school where I've had the opportunity to really promote
inclusion in a meaningful way. And I think in this particular country it's important for those children in schools to be examples of what can be
achieved. There can be a can't do culture around disability, and of course, we're trying to create a can-do culture and remove the stigma that
sometimes families experience still in terms of having children of determination.
What we want to do is remove the glass ceilings and Goals and other agencies are so good at doing that and enabling our young people to really
show what they can do. And, of course, the real benefit of that is they're not just an example to others, but, of course, they bring out so many good
qualities in all the other people around them, which they might not otherwise find in themselves.
Also, as a parent, you know, I want to champion that all the time. I'm delighted that Connor through the Olympics is able to do things that
possibly he never would have done or dreamt of doing.
So, it's the capacity and ability I have in my role as a school principal at Sheikh Zayed Boys School to help dismantle those barriers, encourage
inclusion and really help families.
ANDERSON: Are those barriers coming down, honestly?
CONNOR: They are, but it's a slow process because we're talking about generational change and attitudes to people with varying disables, and it
doesn't happen overnight. Everything that happens, these events in particular, but not just at the legacy that follows afterwards, the
preparations beforehand, are all chipping away the at those misconceptions about everybody with disability.
[10:25:00] ANDERSON: Finally, minister, if I can, the sort of policies that I understand will be enacted here will be across the spectrum --
education, health care, infrastructure. This is an enormous program. Let's talk about legacy just after this short break. But are you
absolutely sure that this will be a policy, these will be policies that go on after the closing ceremony?
BUHUMAID: Well, you see, Becky, luckily that we've launched our national policy for people of determination back then in April 2017. Which is a
full framework going all the way to the vision 2021 of the United Arab Emirates to be one of the best countries around the world. At the heart of
that we talk about inclusion. And the work that we are doing right now, it's not only us. It's the families. It's the parents. It's the schools.
It's the community. It's the perception, most importantly, of people of determination with all type of disabilities. So, the United Arab Emirates
was one of the first countries in the Arab world to launch its classification. So now we have 11 classification of people of
determination. This type of classification will actually give me the opportunity --
ANDERSON: Under the flight path here tonight. That's live TV. Minister, go on.
BUHUMAID: -- and will also give you the opportunity to focus and go deep dive into each and every single type of disability. And so, for that we
feel that we are at a really good start not to even think about the legacy, but also ensuring that the national policies implemented on the ground, and
we can't do it by ourselves. It needs to be a collective work of the whole society.
ANDERSON: Wonderful. Thank you. Thank you, all, for sharing your stories, for your enthusiasm for these games going forward. John, Khawla,
Hessa, thank you for that.
Live from the Wahat Al Karama Martyrs Memorial in the heart of Abu Dhabi. You are watching a special CONNECT THE WORLD tonight, putting people of
determination around the world front and center this hour. With our show celebrating 50 years of Special Olympics. The past, the present, and the
future. Stay with us.
[10:30:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
KINKADE: Hello. I'm Lynda Kinkade, and this is CNN News Now.
The body of former U.S. President George H.W. Bush is now lying in state at the U.S. Capitol building. Later today President Donald Trump is
expected to visit with the Bush family. The Trumps and the Bushes don't get along, but "The Washington Post" reports that the Bush family will not
criticize the current sitting President during the memorial ceremonies this week.
A big reveal is expected today in the Russia investigation. Special Counsel Robert Mueller will recommend sentencing for Donald Trump's former
national security advisor Michael Flynn. He pleaded guilty a year ago to lying about his Russian contacts. He has been cooperating with
investigators ever since. Mueller's court filings could detail some key information.
The Israeli army says it has identified an underground tunnel running from Lebanon into Israel, and it's working to destroy it. It's part of a new
military plan called "Operation Northern Shield" designed to, quote, expose and neutralize tunnels that could be used to attack Israel. Israel says
they were dug by Hezbollah, the political and military group backed by Iran. Although the Hezbollah press office is not commenting.
Donald Trump is planning to hold a second summit with North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un. America's National Security Advisor, John Bolton, says that
meeting will take place shortly after the start of the New Year. Although, he added that Mr. Kim has not lived up to commitments made during the
And that is your CNN News Now. I'm Lynda Kinkade. A special edition of CONNECT THE WORLD continues right now.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Meet Omar. He loves music, movies, and F-1 champion Lewis Hamilton. He also has downs syndrome. Something his
parents don't shy away from.
RULLA AL SHAMI, OMAR'S MOTHER: He is special because his extra chromosome, and this extra chromosome, it's not a weak thing that he has.
ANDERSON: Down syndrome usually causes delayed physical growth and some form of intellectual disability. Shortly after his birth Omar's parents
were told he won't be able to walk, talk, or even eat by himself.
AL SHAMI: We didn't have any idea about this. Before 16 years there's no, like, awareness.
ANDERSON: But times are changing. The UAE now calls those with special needs people of determination. A significant shift in mindset defining
people like Omar not by their condition, but by their actions. But it's a mindset Omar's parents embraced from day one.
SHARIF AL SHAMI, OMAR'S FATHER: The first time I put him in the water was something strange to him. After some lessons he got use to the water and
he started to love swimming.
OMAR AL SHAMI, SPECIAL OLYMPICS UAE SWIMMER: I have power.
ANDERSON: Sharif hopes other families get inspired to believe in their kids' abilities. Omar has won countless swimming competitions and is
gearing up to represent his country in the Special Olympics World Games next year.
ANDERSON: Wonderful. We're defying the odds and changing the conversation in the process. The theme of our Special Olympics show. My next guest,
though, all about this this. I've got Omar with me. We're going to chat in a moment and I'll find out from him just how excited he is about the
Special Olympics coming up. There's a smile on his face. The chief strategy officer and board member of the Special Olympics here in the UAE.
And we've just, of course, seen our Emirati swimmer. And mom and dad are joining as well, Rulla and Sharif. Let's start with you, Omar. Because
you are the star of the show here tonight. Are you going to win a gold?
OMAR AL SHAMI, SPECIAL OLYMPICS UAE SWIMMER: Yes, of course.
ANDERSON: Why did I know you are going to say that. Good man. How excited are you? How important are these Special Olympics to you?
OMAR AL SHAMI: Have been prepared for the Special Olympics for the swimming and about the aim for the first place. It's an honor.
[10:35:00] ANDERSON: Well done. I know your brother and your sister are also here with you tonight. And as a family I know that you come an
awfully long way, and I'm sure you'll tell me that there is so much more to do. How confident are you that there is progress at this point for guys
RULLA AL SHAMI: Omar, he has self-confidence. And he shows a like -- participating in many things. For that, he likes to share in everything.
His personality helped us to work with him more, and really inclusion helps him a lot. He's in a great program in Abu Dhabi International School. And
I think that this gives them more self-confidence. And now with the Special Olympics, it makes difference really.
ANDERSON: This is wonderful. Sharif, tell us, just as a family, just how far have you come? I mean, what have you been through? And how far have
you come? What have you learned?
SHARIF AL SHAMI, FATHER OF SPECIAL OLYMPICS ATHLETE: Actually, we all learn from what's happening. Actually, we are very delighted -- actually,
receives support from everywhere, from our relatives, from our people. Actually, we are blessed with our leaders that have a clear vision and this
vision is given to all individuals, actually. And we are very blessed to have such environments. OK, so all these things are helping us to grow up
Omar in a good manner and actually achieve something in life. So, there is no say disability in our dictionary, and that's why they call us determined
ANDERSON: People of determination. What a good line that is, Omar. We can -- well we can quite frankly, probably guarantee that the Special
Olympics will be absolutely fantastic next year. But how do you insure that the spirit of these games, the spirit of inclusion goes beyond the end
of the games. Let's talk legacy here.
TALA AL RAMAHI, CHIEF STRATEGY OFFICER, SPECIAL OLYMPICS UAE: Of course, Becky. One of the first things that we did think about when we were
preparing the bid was legacy. His Highness, Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, really pushed us to utilize these games as a platform for change,
to address some of the social misperceptions within the UAE society. But also, misperceptions that are global misperceptions on people with
intellectual disabilities. And so, we quickly began thinking about legacy, about what we wanted to do through these games. And we've been working
with the leadership here with ministers across the UAE cabinet, but also international players to address programs and to implement policies that we
promote further inclusion for people with intellectual disabilities.
ANDERSON: And how big an inspiration are special athletes who are here tonight for you in your work? I know you here. I know you well. You work
extremely hard. You wear a number of hats, by the way. I know your only hat, but I know how important this is to you. Just how big an inspiration
are these athletes?
AL RAMAHI: They're an incredible inspiration to all of us. The athletes are at the center of everything that we do with this movement. You
mentioned I wear a lot of hats. One of the most meaningful hats that I wear is serving on the board of Special Olympics UAE. A lot of people
think that Special Olympics is about an event that happened once every two years. But it's actually about a movement that offers opportunities for
people like Omar and his family every single day of the year. Special Olympics UAE provides that for athletes that are residing in the UAE, but
also for the wider community and that's the premise of the Special Olympics movement. It's not just about people with intellectual disabilities. It's
about engaging the community as a whole in this movement.
ANDERSON: It's about rights, isn't it? Let's have a look. Shall we talk to your siblings, shall we? Dad, do you want to pass the microphone down?
I'm probably catching you guys out a bit, but I'm sure that you knew that you would be being spoken to tonight, but just tell us, as you listen to
the conversations, we are having tonight with the special boy in your family here, just how important is it that an event like this has a legacy.
That people are included, that this global exclusion that we've seen in the past comes to an end.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just like the movement that encouraged women to be part of society, now it's time for the light to be set on people of ability
rather than disability. Not engaging those people in our community is a loss for us. Not a loss -- like we need to include them to help develop
any society in the world. We are blessed to be in such a country that has the vision of including such individuals in our community. And that
encourages all kinds of people from all over the world.
[10:40:00] ANDERSON: So, what would your message be to other people around this region who may not have the privilege, as it were, of being here?
Because we know still there is huge stigma, isn't there, attached. Particularly in this part of the world to people with intellectual
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we should all give it a chance and get to know people of determination. Because they are world waiting to be shown
and displayed. It's very interesting seeing the road that my parents and family have taken with Omar and the development and the challenge they
faced and overcame. I think Omar is the best success for my family and the best accomplishment my family and my parents ever had.
ANDERSON: That's just wonderful to hear. You're the best thing that ever happened to this family, sir. You know that. You're going to win a gold
medal for them. I know you are. Mom, finally to you before we move on.
ANDERSON: What are your hopes and aspirations going forward?
RULLA AL SHAMI: My hope that he will get -- he will represent his country in a good way and he will get the first place, and because he has worked --
really, he is working hard. You know? If he hopes so. And now I think he like achieve his dream and this competition gives him power to work more.
ANDERSON: Wonderful. Well, we're going to take a short break at this point. I really appreciate you all being here with us tonight and sharing
your stories and you sharing your time with us, Omar, so we can make a very nice film about you.
OMAR AL SHAMI: Also, my grandmother is here also.
ANDERSON: I know. I know granny. Hello. Right at the end there. Hello. The whole family is here tonight. Tala, thank you very much, indeed. A
lot more on what is this Special Olympics show, and how some incredible athletes are going to take part in the games for the very first time.
Their story is up next.
[10:45:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
ANDERSON: Well, 50 years of Special Olympics around the world, and next year for the first time ever the games come to this region. Welcome back
to Abu Dhabi in the UAE where we are joined tonight by people with inspiring stories, including Sara Felemban, who is a Saudi Special Olympics
athlete who competes in?
SARA FELEMBAN, SPECIAL OLYMPICS SAUDI ARABIA ATHLETE, BOCCE: In Saudi.
ANDERSON: Saudi, in bocce. I know that I'm not pronouncing that properly so I asked Sara to pronounce it for me. We're going to talk about the game
and her enthusiasm for all things Special Olympics in a moment. Her Royal Highness, Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud, the deputy of planning and
development with the Saudi General Sports Authority with us here tonight. And Dr. Heidi is also with us from the Saudi General Sports Authority.
Princess Reema, next year's games will be the first time that female Saudi athletes will be competing. That's fantastic. What more is going on?
We're talking inclusion tonight. Tell us.
PRINCESS REEMA BINT BANDAR AL-SAUD, DEPUTY OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, GENERAL SPORTS AUTHORITY: Well, thank you for having us, and honestly, we
would also like to thank the Emirates for hosting us today. The reason we're here is not only that we have young ladies participating for the
first time, but we're coming to learn so that all of our athletes, the young boys and the young girls, can benefit from the experiences that the
emirates have gone through. We're both on a similar journey and they've had the luxury of a year ahead of us. So, we're very privileged to be
So, what's happening is we are talking seriously the role of the Special Olympics, not only from a sports point of view, but from the community
integration. And really seeing how we can tie the family back into the dialogue, which is a natural discourse for us in the Middle East.
Inclusion is our narrative, and now as was graciously said before, the dialogue has moved on from women to including everybody, and this is a
community that deserves the recognition.
ANDERSON: And given the times that we live in, we made no apologies at the top end of this show to say that we are celebrating people of determination
tonight. This is a region where its news and headlines are concerned. Is it more important than ever that we talk inclusion today in 2018?
PRINCESS REEMA BINT BANDAR AL-SAUD: It actually honestly is because inclusion is borderless. And inclusion is religion-less. It actually is
everybody's story. There is nothing that separates these young people from their contemporaries anywhere in the world. And the beauty of these games
is that it is not just about competing. It's about being included and community engagement. What we're trying to do is elevate the discourse
from the individual to the collective, and we're honored to be here.
ANDERSON: Well, that's a big vision. It does, as you rightly point out, start with special athletes like these two here. Tell me, you didn't want
me to come back to you because you got all nervous, haven't you? You're going to be fine. Tell us about the game of bocce.
SARA FELEMBAN: Bocce is a sport-- it's the same.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Sara. You just made me feel really stupid.
FELEMBAN: No, you're a pest.
ANDERSON: I've never played. Will you play with me at some point? Yes? Are you looking forward to these games next year?
ANDERSON: Tell us what you have been doing to train for this and tell us what you are doing back home in Saudi.
FELEMBAN: I do bocce, but every day I do it.
ANDERSON: Wonderful. I know it's hard. You work closely with Sara and lots of other special athletes. Just tell us where you are at.
DR. HEIDI ALASKARY, SAUDI GENERAL SPORTS AUTHORITY: So, we're very proud. We've been able to canvas the whole terrain in Saudi Arabia. We have a lot
of athletes in a diverse number of different sports, so we have athletes in basketball, bocce, swimming, roller skating, weightlifting, triathlon. So,
it's been fascinating not only seeing the passion that they have for the sports, but the passion that they have to be part of teams, and the passion
they have to be part of the bigger extension.
ANDERSON: We've been -- we've certainly spent the last hour now, nearly last hour, talking about how important these games are at their core for
this wider revolution.
[10:50:00] If you can explain to us just how difficult things have been in the past in Saudi Arabia, and whether you truly believe that things are
changing. Is there serious progress?
ALASKARY: I truly believe that things are changing in the sense that we're connecting the dots better. So, we've had challenges in the past, but
we've had pockets of excellence. And what's beautiful about this kind of initiative and the program, like Special Olympics, is it brings together
those pockets of excellence. We see the volunteers coming out. Whether they're in the medical fields or within the general population, the youth.
We see parents coming out, the elderly, grandparents supporting the grandchildren, which is beautiful. We see other programs like the
leadership programs. How does sports bridge into careers? How does careers -- how do careers bridge into independence? How do we insure that
our future generations, whether they have unique abilities or not, are able to sustain themselves and rely on themselves?
ANDERSON: Do you, Princess Reema, have support from the very top for this?
PRINCESS REEMA BINT BANDAR AL-SAUD: Absolutely, because the vision of our nation, which I keep reminding everyone, is a global vision. It is one of
inclusion, and it is one of change in our community, as have you seen. It's had so many changes in the past two years that honestly, we're trying
to keep up with everything that is now possible. The fact that we're sitting here with you extending a request to the UAE to say, please help
us, allow us to develop and grow with you, is one of the greatest symbols of change that I as a woman am working at the sports authority that we have
young ladies participating, but that this community is being highlighted. And that doesn't come from me. That doesn't come from Dr. Heidi. That
comes from a national vision. We are just the players to enable and these are the individuals who are the beneficiaries. But to do that, someone has
to unlock the door, and someone has to create the path. That is the vision of the king. That's the vision of the crown prince. It's the national
ANDERSON: With that we'll leave it there. We thank you very much, all of you, for traveling from Saudi to join us on what is this special show. Let
me -- you would like to say thank you to --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Excellent. Thank you, sir. Well done.
Let me guess that all of you watching this want to play a part in all of this. We're going to tell you how and give you a special little spectacle
right after this very quick break. Stay with us.
[10:55:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN SPECIAL OLYMPIAN (through translator): Sport helps me achieve my dreams.
ANDERSON: We started this hour making no apologies for dedicating the time, our time, to people of determination. People who struggle for rights
and inclusion should be our struggle. People who deserve to be seen. People who deserve to be heard. If you have been inspired, and I hope you
have, how can you help, I hear yourself asking. Well, get stuck in. Volunteers are what make it all work. Some 20,000 people are going to be
lending a hand here at the games in March. You can join them if you head over to SpecialOlympics.com. If you can't spare the time to pitch in, just
turn up. There are more than 20 sports to watch from ping pong to swimming. At the very least, just tune in. Catch all the action on TV or
stream the games on-line from anywhere on any device.
And in the spirit of these games and to those who come in the next 50 years in the five fight for global inclusion, everybody, athletes, leaders,
volunteers, crew, get your glow sticks up in the air. The lights, a symbol of the Olympic fire and ambition.
To a more unified, more inclusive future, I'm Becky Anderson. That was CONNECT THE WORLD from Abu Dhabi. It's a very good evening.