Spectacular Opening Ceremony signals the start of the World Games

After a spectacular and electrifying opening ceremony the World Summer Games 2019 are now officially open!

The ceremony took place at the Zayed Sports City where the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE’s Armed Forces officially welcomed more than 7,500 athletes and 3,000 coaches, representing 200 nations, for seven days of incredible Olympic-style sports and a celebration of the human spirit.

Thousands of family, dignitaries and supporters filled the stadium to welcome the athletes and and stars including Avril Lavigne and Luis Fonsi provided the soundtrack to the night. Including a thrilling rendition of the official World Games anthem ‘Right Where I’m Supposed To Be’ for the very first time.

With the voices of hundreds of children still echoing around the stadium, thousands of Special Olympics athletes entered the arena.

Legendary British DJ Paul Oakenfold electrified the stadium with his world-famous selection of uplifting house music and entertained athletes as they walked and danced into the arena.

Team Ireland received a rousing cheer from the stands as they entered, led by Clare native Mairead Moroney, one of the oldest athletes to compete at the Games this week.

Their pre-Ceremony celebrations were just as energetic and were enjoyed by Special Olympics USA!


Timothy Shriver, Chairman of Special Olympics, delivered a heartfelt and inspirational message to the UAE and the world.

 “You have won the most important race already; yes you will compete, and yes you will prove yourselves and yes, you will take home medals but please know, by your open hearts and freedom, you have already changed the course of history; by your competitive spirit, you have already changed the face of sport; and by marshalling the energies of love and sharing them with us all, you  have already won the gold medals.”

One of the last ceremonial aspects of the show was 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 as a festival of Emirati cultural performances, traditions and dances were played out on center stage.

To a heart-pounding drum beat, the crowd watched displays of UAE traditions, such as the sharing of gahwa coffee, as the torch was passed from runner to runner, each igniting their own symbolic flame.

The runners then gathered around a cauldron to light the Special Olympics flame that will burn for the duration of the World Games.

As the Special Olympics Flame burned brightly and the official anthem filled the air, the final curtain was brought down on a spectacular Opening Ceremony that signaled the beginning of seven days of incredible sport, human endeavor and unity.


Team Ireland are in action today in many sports and the full schedule is available here 

Photos from the Opening Ceremony are on the Special Olympics Ireland Facebook Page and please continue to share all of your Games moments and stories on our social channels

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