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CONNECT THE WORLD
Counting Down to the Special Olympics in Abu Dhabi. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired December 24, 2018 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BECKY ANDERSON, CNN HOST (voice-over): Determination, discipline, 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 visionary, 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.
The games happen every two years. And next March, they will be held here, the biggest ever, with 192 nations coming along, a far cry from the humble
beginnings and the vision of one woman, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, back in 1968.
EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, SISTER OF JOHN F. KENNEDY: 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."
ANDERSON (voice-over): The world had never seen anything like it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They hug every single competitor, no matter if they finished first or last.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Exactly 50 years ago, a revolution, one that many people missed.
In Chicago, a thousand children, all with intellectual disabilities, coming together to play and do their best. That thousand inspiring millions more
from Chicago to Shanghai, Athens to Nagano (ph), more than a tournament, a burning movement for social change.
The flame, passed down through decades, still burns on.
ANDERSON: A passion that you can see burning brighter than ever in the eyes of all of these 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 Shaikha Al Qassimi; with her, Mohammed Al Junaibi, who is the chairman of the UAE Special Olympics
Committee and a special thanks to His Highness, Sheikh Khalifa bin Sultan al Nahyan for being with us here, tonight as well.
Let me start you with, if I can, sir.
Why are the Special Olympics important to the UAE?
And why now?
MOHAMMED AL JUNAIBI, CHAIRMAN, UAE SPECIAL OLYMPICS COMMITTEE: Thank you, first of all, CNN, and thank you for the support for the Special Olympics.
We are expecting this moment. This was built a long time ago by Sheikh Zayed at Blasiso (ph). He had that vision --
AL JUNAIBI: -- for the years to come. And thank God we were lucky he prepared the leaders like Mohammed bin Said (ph) and (INAUDIBLE) and now we
are implementing their visions, with our leaders, that we are lucky with.
And it is 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 special athletes here, including Shaikha here with us today, how important have they been to you, in
ensuring that these games go on and that there is a legacy of inclusion left afterwards?
AL JUNAIBI: That's the plan, Becky. We have the athletes here, they are not only going to be included, it is not the inclusion only, they are going
to be the leaders to come. And we will be working with them to support them in their leadership.
ANDERSON: Well, that's wonderful. And Shaikha, 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.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Twenty-two-year-old Shaikha 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 a recent Arab karate championship in Cairo.
She has practiced not one, not two, but she has practiced nine forms of martial arts, something she says has completely changed her life.
SHAIKHA AL QASSIMI, ATHLETE: And the transformation that is empowering you and inspire you, to be the best you can be.
ANDERSON (voice-over): It is a message she hopes to share on a global stage. She is being chosen as a torch runner in next year's Special
Olympics world games in Abu Dhabi and also hopes to serve as a judo official.
AL QASSIMI: (INAUDIBLE) and I want to have that.
ANDERSON: Being from one of the UAE's royal families, Shaikha has a great platform to do just that.
It's simple: having special needs doesn't need to hold you back in life.
ANDERSON: 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 (INAUDIBLE) in this country, the UAE and other countries in the region and
the global stage, to show this is who we are, this is who we become. We are human beings, we're normal. But we want to show people this is who we
are, we can change and we will fight for what we really love.
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 the different communities coming together
and I have really good friends behind me that have really worked with me.
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 is part of a revolution, a revolution of inclusion. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (voice-over): The right to play on any playing field. 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: The message of hope to this simple 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 give you a sneak peek tonight, the traditional torch procession, law enforcement officers flanked by athletes, the Special Olympics tradition
since 1981. This flame of hope will tour all seven emirates of the UAE before completing its journey here in Abu Dhabi for the opening --
ANDERSON: -- ceremony in March 2019.
How about that?
AL QASSIMI: Very good.
And listen, here with me, a true living legend joins me, American track and field icon, Bobby, 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
BOB BEAMON, LONG JUMP OLYMPIC WORLD RECORD HOLDER: 29.2.
ANDERSON: Destroying the world record by 1.8 feet, the leap of the century. It is half a century, Bob, since you set the Olympic record,
which still stands.
Has it sunk in yet?
BEAMON: Every day, I think about it. I mean it motivates me to be better. It truly is a blessing to be-- even be associated with the Special
Olympics, because I was there in 1968, when it first started, with Eunice Shriver Kennedy.
ANDERSON: I was going to point that out. I'm going to swap mikes. They have me on this one. You have your own mike now. A very good point. Half
a century ago, you and Eunice Shriver Kennedy, a pioneer for people of determination, yourself over 50 years, motivating people, giving them
How inspired are you by the Special Olympics, in the first instance?
And what can you do to spread the word?
BEAMON: The first thing I can say is that how I am so involved is because my brother was a Special Olympian, too, so I have 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.
Shaikha, have you seen those?
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
generally call a revolution. But we know that there is an awful lot more to do.
BEAMON: Absolutely. As I said before, we have watched how the development over the years has taken place. And it also inspires the other ones to
come along and to be even better.
I can tell you that, 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 here with us tonight. Just remind our viewers of your own story. Because Special Olympics is
something you have really taken on with a passion. But you have also spent years, years helping youngsters in the States, maybe 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 onto
ANDERSON: Wonderful. And 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 will take a very quick breather now and we will be back in a moment with this amazing crowd 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 are 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.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [10:15:00]
(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 this 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 (voice-over): Live from Abu Dhabi, welcome back to a very special show for you tonight. You just heard Timothy Shriver talking about his
mother's legacy, 50 years of Special Olympics. But there are still major challenges, not the least in this region, where children and adults often
still struggle for rights and acceptance.
So we are hosting the world games here for the first time ever in 2019, help change attitudes. Let's try to get to the bottom of that.
Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid is the UAE's minister of community development, on our set here tonight. Khawla Barley is the co-founder of Goals UAE. And
we will talk about that wonderful initiative very shortly. Joe Hambleton (ph) is a Special Olympics open water swimmer and we also have Conor
Conway, also a Special Olympics swimmer, where his father, John, who is the principal at the Sheikh Zayed Private Academy for boys.
Let me start you with, lads. Both of you swimmers.
How much you are looking forward to the Special Olympics next year?
JOE HAMBLETON, SPECIAL OLYMPICS OPEN WATER SWIMMER: A lot.
ANDERSON: Are you going to win a gold?
You are not camera shy, are you?
HAMBLETON: I don't know.
Conor, how is the swimming going?
CONOR CONWAY, SPECIAL OLYMPICS SWIMMER: It's going good.
ANDERSON: How are you going to get on, do you think, in the Olympics?
C. CONWAY: I will swim hard and do my best.
ANDERSON: Excellent. That's exactly what we need to hear from you guys. And we will move across and talk to --
ANDERSON: -- the ladies now.
Hessa, 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 government here?
HESSA BINT ESSA BUHUMAID, UAE MINISTER OF COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: Well, thank you, Becky. Here in the United Arab Emirates, we believe that
inclusion is at the heart of the government work.
For that reason, especially for the world games, it is to create an excellent opportunity for us to understand and have and reflect back on our
government policies. The journey have been not easy, we have had to start at the beginning 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 ensure that this type of set-up is in place for years to come.
ANDERSON: Give us some examples.
BUHUMAID: One of the most important is the UAE universal court for inclusion. Such a court will issue that all of our buildings, all of our
set-ups, government, private, whatever, schools even, are set up to ensure that people with special needs will be (INAUDIBLE) have the right for ease
of access, accessibility and have the right to maintain their day to day work and life just as normal people.
ANDERSON: And yours is a very personal story of empowerment. Just tell our viewers about the community initiative that you've 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, CO-FOUNDER, GOALS UAE: Yes, Goals UAE, we started five years ago this month. And it is very personal. My son is on the autism
spectrum. And what I saw five years ago, I was concerned.
He is very bright. He is very interested. But I was unsure if 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 and what their identity will be like as a person, as an adult.
ANDERSON: Well, Colin, Joe, are alumni of the Goals UAE program --
BARLEY: -- 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. Phenomenal. I honestly never dreamed that we would be at this point, five years in. So it is
wonderful to have this launch pad for change.
ANDERSON: That's great to hear. 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 to where the UAE is.
And we hope therefore that these games, the Special Olympics being held here for the first time in 2019, just 100 days from today, will help
John, you hail from the education sector.
So what more do you believe needs to be done to support children like the boys here, especially when it comes to access at schools?
JOHN CONWAY, CONOR'S FATHER: 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's schools to be examples of what can be achieved, there can be a
counter culture around disability.
And of course, we are trying to change that culture and remove the stigma that is sometimes found in these experiences, still, in terms of having
children of determination.
So what we want to do is remove the glass ceilings. And goals and other agencies are so good at doing that. And they bring out our young people,
to really show what they can do and, of course, the real benefit of that, is they're not only an example to others but, of course, they bring out so
many good qualities in all of the other people around them, which they might not otherwise find in themselves.
So as a parent, I want to champion that all the time, I am delighted that Conor through the Olympics is doing things that he probably would have
never have done or dreamt of doing. So it is the capacity and the ability I have --
J. CONWAY: -- in my role as a school principal at the boys school to help dismantle those barriers, encourage inclusion and really help families.
ANDERSON: And are those barriers coming down, honestly?
J. CONWAY: They are but it is a slow process because we're talking about generational change and attitudes for people with varying disabilities and
it doesn't happen overnight.
So everything that happens, these events in particular but not just the legacy that follows afterwards, the preparations beforehand, are all
chipping away at those misconceptions about everybody with disabilities.
ANDERSON: Finally, minister, if I can, the sorts of policies that I understand will be enacted here will be across the spectrum: education,
health care, infrastructure. This is an enormous program. We'll talk about the legacy, just after this short break.
But are you absolutely sure that this will be a policy, these will be policies in place, that will 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
highlighted a full framework, going all the way to 2021, of the United Arab Emirates to be one of the best countries around the world.
At height of that, we talk about inclusion. And the work that we are doing right now, it is not only us, it is the family, it is the parents, it is
the schools, it is the community, it is the perception, most importantly, of people of determination, with all types 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 would actually give you the opportunity --
ANDERSON: Under the flight path here tonight. That's live TV.
Minister, go on.
BUHUMAID: -- and it 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 are -- 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 need 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 Memorial here 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.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Meet Omar. He loves music, movies and F1 champion Lewis Hamilton. He also has Down syndrome, something his parents don't shy
RULLA AL SHAMI, OMAR'S MOTHER: He is special because of his extra chromosome and this extra chromosome, it is not a weak thing that he has.
ANDERSON (voice-over): Down syndrome usually causes delayed physical growth and some form of intellectual disability.
Shortly after his birth, Omar's parents were told he wouldn't be able to walk, talk or even eat by himself.
R. AL SHAMI: We didn't have any idea about this. Before 16 years ago, there was no awareness.
ANDERSON (voice-over): But times are a-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, something Omar's parents embraced from day one.
SHARIF AL SHAMI, OMAR'S FATHER: First off, with the water, there was swimming for him. For some lessons, you get used to the water and you
start to love swimming.
OMAR AL SHAMI, SPECIAL OLYMPIAN: I come in, make me happy and I am (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON (voice-over): He 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, while defying the odds and changing the conversation in the process, the theme of the Special Olympics show. My next guests
know all about this. I've got Omar with me. We're going to chat in a moment. I will find out from him how excited he is about the Special
Olympics coming up. There is a smile on his face.
Tala Al Ramahi is chief strategy officer and board member of the Special Olympics here in the UAE. And we've just, of course, seen our emirate
swimmer and Mom and Dad are joining us as well, Rulla and Sharif.
Let's start with you, Omar, because you're the star of the show here tonight.
Are you going to win a gold?
O. AL SHAMI: Yes, of course.
ANDERSON: Why did I know you were going to say that?
How excited are you?
How important are these Special Olympics to you?
O. AL SHAMI: In preparing for the Special Olympics, the swimming, I want to be in first place.
ANDERSON: Well done. I know you are bringing your sister, here with you tonight. And as a family, I know you've come an awfully long way. And I'm
sure you will tell me that there is so much more to do.
How confident are you that there is progress at this point for guys like Omar?
R. AL SHAMI: Omar, he has self confidence and he shows he is participating in many things. For that, he likes to share in everything. His special
note, he helps us to work with him more. And really inclusion helps him a lot.
He's in Abu Dhabi International School. And I think that this gives him more self-confidence. And now with the Special Olympics, it makes a
ANDERSON: This is wonderful.
And Sharif, tell us, just as a family, just how far have you come?
What have you been through?
What have you been through and how far have you come?
What have you learned?
S. AL SHAMI: Well, in fact, we learned a lot. Actually all learned from what is happening, we are very delighted --
S. AL SHAMI: -- to receive the support from everywhere, from our relatives, from our people. Actually we are blessed with our leaders that
have a clear vision and this vision goes out to all individuals, actually.
And we are very, very blessed to have such an environment. All of these things are helping us to know, to grow up Omar in a good manner and achieve
something in life. So there is not to say disability in our dictionary and that's why they call it as determination.
ANDERSON: People of determination. What a good line that is.
Omar, tell us, we can, well, we can quite frankly guarantee the Special Olympics will be absolutely fantastic next year.
But how do you ensure that the spirit of the games, the spirit of inclusion, goes beyond the end of the games?
Let's talk legacy here.
TALA AL RAMAHI, CSO, SPECIAL OLYMPICS UAE: Of course, Becky. One of the first things we did think about when we were preparing the bid was legacy.
His Highness 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.
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 would promote further inclusion for
people with intellectual disabilities.
ANDERSON: And how big of 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 not your only hat but I know how
important this is to you.
Just how big of an inspiration are these athletes?
AL RAMAHI: They are 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 happens once every two years.
But it is 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 is not just about people with intellectual disabilities. It's about engaging the
community as a whole in this movement.
ANDERSON: So it is about rights, isn't it?
Should we talk to your siblings, shall we?
Dad, do you want to pass the microphone down?
I am probably catching you guys out a bit, I'm not sure that you knew you would be spoken to tonight. But just tell us, as you listen to
conversations we are having tonight with a 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 a part of society, now it's time for the light to be set on people of
abilities rather than disability. Not engaging those people in our community is, for us, 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.
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 a road waiting to be shown
and displayed. It is 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 parents and the best accomplishment my parents and my family has ever had.
ANDERSON: That's just wonderful to hear, that you're the best thing that ever has happened to this family, you know that.
Are you going to win --
ANDERSON: -- a gold medal for them?
I know you are.
And finally to you, before we move on, what are your hopes and aspirations going forward?
What are your hopes and aspirations going forward?
R. AL SHAMI: My hope is that a child will get here, present his country in good way and he will get the first place, because he is working. Really he
is working hard, you know. And he hopes so. And now, I feel he like achieved his dream and this competition gives him like power to work more.
Well, we are going to take a very short break at this point. But 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.
O. AL SHAMI: (INAUDIBLE).
ANDERSON: Hello, right at the end there. Hello. The whole family is here tonight. 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.
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, SAUDI SPECIAL OLYMPICS ATHLETE: In Saudi.
ANDERSON: In Saudi.
I know that I'm not pronouncing that, Sara, so you pronounce it for me. We are going to talk about the game and her enthusiasm for all things Special
Olympics in a moment.
Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar, 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 women 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, DEPUTY OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT, GENERAL SPORTS AUTHORITY OF SAUDI ARABIA: 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 have had the luxury of a year ahead of us so we're very privileged to be here. So what is happening is,
we are taking 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 in the Middle East.
Inclusion is our narrative and now, as was graciously said before, the dialogue 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 make no apologies at the top end of this show, to say that we are celebrating people of
determination tonight. This is a roiling region, so far as its news headlines and its politics are concerned.
Is it more important than ever that we talk inclusion today, in 2018?
BANDAR: It actually honestly is. Because inclusion is borderless. And inclusion is religionless. It is actually 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, 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?
But you're going to be fine. Tell us about the game of bocce.
FELEMBAN: Bocce is a ball. That's it.
ANDERSON: Thanks, Sara (ph). You just actually made me feel really stupid.
FELEMBAN: You have never played?
ANDERSON: I have never played.
Will you play with me at some point?
Are you looking forward to these games next year?
ANDERSON: Tell us what you've been doing to train for this and tell us what you're doing back home in Saudi.
FELEMBAN: I don't push it but every day I work on it.
I know you work closely with Sara and lots of other special athletes. Just tell us where you're at.
DR. HEIDI ALASKARY, SAUDI GENERAL SPORTS AUTHORITY: So we're very proud. We have been able to canvass the whole terrain in Saudi Arabia. We have a
lot of athletes in a diverse number of different sports. So we have basketball, bocce, swimming, roller skating, weight lifting, triathlon. So
it has 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 the last hour, talking about how important these games are at their core. For
this wider revolution. 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: So 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 --
ALASKARY: -- 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 and how does sports bridge into careers, how does careers, how do careers bridge into
independence and how do we ensure that our future generations, whether they have unique abilities or not, are able to sustain themselves and rely on
ANDERSON: Do you, Princess Reema, have support from the very top for this?
BANDAR: 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 you've seen, has 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, 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 and that is the vision of the king, that is the vision of the
crown prince, it is the national vision.
ANDERSON: And with that, we will leave it there. We thank you very much, all of you, for traveling from Saudi, to join us, on what is a special
And let me -- and you would like to say thank you too?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.
ANDERSON: Excellent. Thank you, sir. Well done.
ANDERSON: Let me guess, that all of you watching this, want to play a part in all of this. We are going to tell you how and give you a special little
spectacle right after this very quick break. Stay with us.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (from captions): Sport helps me to achieve my dreams.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
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've 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. 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 of the action on TV or stream the games online, from anywhere on any device.
And in the spirit of these games and to those who come in the next 50 years, in the 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.