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03 June 2023

Special Olympics World Games 2019 generated close to AED 1b in economic output

Photo: WAM


The Special Olympics World Games 2019 generated AED 957 million in economic output during the 10-day event that was held in the UAE in March, according to a study conducted by PwC Middle East.

The economic output measures the increase in economic output expressed as the value of all sales of goods and services generated by expenditure in a mega event. In addition to the economic output, the PwC Middle East study revealed that the Gross Value Added generated by the Games was over AED 500 million, with an additional AED 236 million when factoring in-kind contributions through sponsorships and partnerships. Gross Value Added captures only the value added component of expenditure on the Games.

Laurent Depolla the PwC Middle East Partner leading the Impact Assessment study, said: "The Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi have been a unique catalyst for the inclusion of People of Determination within the UAE society as well as globally. The positive economic contribution from the event resulted from the new event delivery model demonstrated by the Local Organizing Committee".

The report also revealed that nearly 8,000 job years were created in supporting sectors along the supply chain of the Games, in addition to the 279 job years that were created through the Local Organizing Committee during the 2 year period of planning leading up to the Games. Since it was created in 2017, the Local Organizing Committee employed 304 staff from 47 nationalities to run the Games. The report also revealed that 90% of the total procurement expenditure of the World Games was spent on local suppliers.

In addition to the healthy economic contribution of the Games, the World Games ultimately improved attractiveness for international organizations to seriously consider the UAE as a host for future mega-events. The World Games attracted over half a million spectators, with more than 18,000 coming from overseas for an average 10-day stay. These visitors had a higher spend profile than local visitors.

The findings were revealed at the closing Higher Committee meeting of the Special Olympics World Games Abu Dhabi 2019, Chaired by Mohamad Abdulla Al Junaibi. At the meeting, the leadership team of the Local Organizing Committee revealed further record-breaking metrics, including delivering on vision of the largest and most unified Games in the history of the Special Olympics movement. Over 7,000 athletes from 200 countries participated in the World Games 2019 that were held in Abu Dhabi under the Patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. 30 new Special Olympics programs were added to the Special Olympics movement as a result of the UAE’s proactive diplomatic efforts, while a record of 2,200 athletes without disabilities (32% of athletes) participated in Unified Sports competitions in a record of 15 sports.

During the period of their stay for the World Games, all athletes were offered free health screenings across seven health disciplines, including dental and podiatry checks, as well as hearing and eye tests. A total of 23,296 screenings were conducted, with a record of 85% of all athletes screened and offered the necessary care where needed.

In addition to the economic impact delivered through the Games, extensive awareness campaigns, as well as strategic media partnerships with Abu Dhabi Media, ESPN, Sky News Arabia, and Humans of New York among other leading media organizations around the World delivered a global media momentum and AED 254 million in media value impact for the UAE, as well as 6.7 billion social media impressions between 14 – 21 March.

The Special Olympics World Games 2019 were also a key catalyst to propel the Special Olympics movement to the digital era, where the Local Organizing Committee implemented the first digital management system to improve operational aspects and enhance the Games experience for athletes and spectators.

Furthermore, the Special Olympics Opening Ceremony was live-streamed in virtual reality and 360 for the first time in history.

The World Games 2019 also triggered the fast-tracking of preexisting policies and programs as well as the development of new national government policies and initiatives to empower and promote further inclusion for People of Determination in the UAE. Earlier in March, the Determination Retreat, which was attended by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as Ministers, People of Determination, their families and other policy makers culminated in the announcement of 31 National programmes launched to support People of Determination in key areas including sports, education, employment, health and quality of life.

During that same period, the Local Organizing Committee announced the expansion of Unified Champion Schools across 600 public schools in the UAE starting in September 2019. The expansion will be rolled out in partnership with Special Olympics UAE, The Ministry of Education and the Education Affairs Office at the Crown Prince Court of Abu Dhabi.

Mohamad Al Junaibi, Chairman of the Higher Committee of the Special Olympics World Games 2019, said: "We are humbled and proud of the achievements that the United Arab Emirates demonstrated through these findings. Through these Games, we were able to send a message to the World that the UAE is capable of delivering a mega event of an exceptional and global caliber. But more importantly, we were able to showcase to the World the leadership’s commitment towards empowering People of Determination.

His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as the patron of the event, strongly believed and drove the vision and noble mission of this event, and what we could achieve as a lasting legacy for People of Determination in the UAE and beyond. His constant involvement in every critical milestone of these Games allowed us to elevate the conversation around People of Determination and enabled us to deliver the largest and most unified Games in the history of the Special Olympics movement."