Special Olympics Education and Competition Event Marks a Milestone

Special Olympics Education and Competition Event Marks a Milestone

A global technical training and regional competition was recently held in Abu Dhabi, continuing the strengthening partnership between Special Olympics and Badminton World Federation (BWF).

Delegates from 13 countries gathered for the training at Khalifa University in Abu Dhabi, which was held in conjunction with the inaugural Special Olympics Middle East North Africa (MENA) sub-regional Gulf Badminton competition, hosted by Special Olympics UAE.

Participants at the event.

Over five days (8-12 May), 14 international delegates took part in a series of training workshops which focused on developing their skills as referees/technical delegates and Unified Sport delegates in badminton.

Workshop participants – some representing Special Olympics programmes as coaches and experts, and others coming from the badminton community as certified referees, umpires, and coaches – took part in a series of training sessions focused on the delivery of high-quality badminton competitions at Special Olympics national, regional and international levels.

The workshop opened with an address from Special Olympics UAE athlete Ali Saif Bin Summaidaa, who welcomed the global participants to the UAE and promised an eventful week of learning and competition.

Over the following two days, workshop participants went through a series of sessions exploring the unique aspects of Special Olympics competitions, and the technical aspects required to deliver high-quality badminton competitions in a fully inclusive way.

Following the training, a three-day badminton competition took place with players from six countries, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Bahrain and Qatar. Players competed across divisions in the men’s and women’s singles and men’s and women’s doubles.

An athlete at the competition.

Fresh from their training, the workshop participants experienced first hand how to successfully division athletes for competition and observe for individual skill levels as they supported the three days of badminton competition.

Speaking about the experience one of the participants, Meg Bowman, a badminton coach with Special Olympics North America, said the combination of training workshops and three days of competition made for a rich learning experience.

“The Badminton World Federation and Special Olympics training brought a group of people together with one thing in common: our love of badminton. We immediately worked well together and were able to get the most out of the training.  We were prepared to put that training into action at the MENA SO Badminton Tournament. I left feeling confident and prepared to take the next steps to get Special Olympics North America on board with badminton at a regional level.”

The combined workshop and competition mark a significant step forward for Special Olympics as it is the first-ever technical training co-delivered by Special Olympics and an international federation partner.

The workshop training is another critical step in enhancing the delivery of Special Olympics’ badminton competitions while elevating the athlete’s experience and setting a precedent for other international federations to work more closely with Special Olympics in this area.

Badminton is set to feature for the first time at the Special Olympics Latin America Regional Games in Paraguay later this year. While in 2025, a Special Olympics Asia Pacific Badminton competition will take place with the education and training achieved at the Abu Dhabi, UAE workshop and competition carried forward into those events to ensure top-tier badminton competitions.

The workshop in progress.

John Shearer, Head of Continental Development for the BWF, celebrated the success of the training and the competition, commenting that the growing popularity of badminton across the Special Olympics movement will create more competition opportunities for players.

“The referee/technical delegate and Unified Sport Delegate training in Abu Dhabi is the first step in a process which will lead to hundreds of athletes competing in regional competitions over the next two- three years. The calibre of the 14 participants was extremely high, with considerable Special Olympics and badminton experience within the group. Based on the enthusiasm, experience and knowledge sharing from our new referee/technical delegate and Unified Sport Delegate workforce, I am confident that Special Olympics Athletes will experience an extremely high standard of organisation and event delivery when attending future regional competitions.”