Special Olympics Shuttlers Dazzle in Dubai

November 3, 2021

With support from Badminton World Federation (BWF) and AirBadminton Dubai, 26 Special Olympics United Arab Emirates (UAE) athletes showcased their talents at Expo 2020 Dubai on 8 October 2021.

An event of massive global recognition, Expo 2020 Dubai enabled athletes and Unified partners to compete in a one-day AirBadminton tournament that continued the push for inclusion generated by Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

AirBadminton, introduced by BWF in late 2019, is a relative of traditional badminton. Played with AirShuttle – a shuttlecock that allows for better outdoor play – it further increases the accessibility of the sport to all. Learn about the development of AirBadminton here.

At the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Special Olympics International (SOI) and BWF signed a Memorandum of Understanding, demonstrating their joint commitment to increasing high-quality badminton play for athletes with intellectual disabilities (ID).

Special Olympics UAE’s feature at Expo 2020 Dubai is a testament to how this partnership has increased both parties’ impact on an international scale.

“We are extremely pleased with the continued growth of badminton within the Special Olympics movement globally,” said BWF President Poul-Erik Høyer.

“The Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi and the development of a new global development strategy between BWF and Special Olympics International have been catalysts to this tremendous growth, which we believe will continue for many years.”

Scenes from the AirBadminton Tournament.

A product of strong partnership between SOI and BWF, Expo 2020 Dubai provided high-quality badminton play in a fun environment for Special Olympics UAE athletes. Expo 2020 Dubai’s large platform broadcasted Special Olympics’ commitment to inclusion, exhibiting the unifying power of sport across a wide audience.

“Inclusion and opportunities to participate in sport is a fundamental right of everyone, including people with a disability,” Høyer said.

“I would like to congratulate Special Olympics UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai and UAE Badminton Federation for their continued dedication and support of badminton, and for providing opportunities to local and international communities to experience our sport.”

Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE, said: “Sport speaks to the world in a language everyone understands. Our Air Badminton Athletes and their Unified Partners inspire, unite and bring hope to all of us.

“We also must thank our partners BWF and Air Badminton Dubai for the unwavering support of our athletes. Their efforts enhance Special Olympics UAE events and amplify their impact.”

Badminton is a fast-developing sport in the Special Olympics world and currently has more than 370,000 players engaged in the game globally.

Between 2018 and 2019 alone, an additional 62,000 new Special Olympics athletes with and without intellectual disabilities took up their rackets and headed for the courts, demonstrating the potential of the sport to grow and reach more players globally with additional support.