- Over R1-million sponsorship provided by Ford for 30 special needs athletes
- 2019 Special Olympics Summer World Games takes place from 14 to 21 March
- SA National Team will compete in football, futsal (five-a-side female soccer), table tennis, equestrian, bocce, open-water swimming, athletics and golf
Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) is helping make the dream of competing on the international sports stage a reality for 30 South African National Team athletes who will be participating in the 2019 Special Olympics Summer World Games in the United Arab Emirates.
Ford's sponsorship of more than R1-million will cover the athletes' travel and associated costs to participate in this global showpiece which takes place from 14 to 21 March in Abu Dhabi.
"The Special Olympics provides people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realise their potential, develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, and experience joy and friendship," says Special Olympics South Africa CEO, Ancilla Smith.
"We are exceptionally grateful for Ford's sponsorship, as it will give these athletes a life-changing experience that serves as a catalyst for inclusion and building a lasting legacy of improved health and education," she added.
More than 7 500 athletes from 170 countries will compete in 24 summer sports this year, assisted by 2 500 coaches and 20 000 volunteers, making this the largest international sporting and humanitarian event of the year, as well as a record turn-out for the Special Olympics which was founded in 1968.
The South African National Team will comprise a total of 70 athletes, 21 coaches and seven support staff, and will represent the country in football, futsal (five-a-side female soccer), table tennis, equestrian, bocce, open-water swimming, athletics and golf. Team SA will be departing for the UAE on 7 March 2019.
"It is wonderful to be associated with the Special Olympics, and an honour for Ford to be sponsoring 30 South African athletes this year," said Neale Hill, MD of Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region.
"Sport is one of the best ways of unifying and uplifting people to build a brighter future, particularly for these special needs athletes, and this complements our extensive involvement in soccer locally," Hill adds. "We will be behind Team SA all the way and wish them the very best for the competition this year."
The 2019 Special Olympics South Africa National Team will be hoping to replicate the successes of recent years. The 2017 National Team of 24 athletes returned victorious form the Winter Games in Austria with 27 medals, which included 16 gold medals, four unified gold medals, two silver and five bronze medals. In 2015, the team of 61 athletes won 17 gold, 20 silver and 24 bronze medals.
These will be the first Special Olympics World Games in the Middle East/North Africa region. The 2019 World Games kick off with a star-studded Opening Ceremony in the iconic Zayed Sports City Stadium in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the largest sports venue in the Persian Gulf.
In addition to sports competition, the 2019 World Games will feature inspiring non-sports activities and programs, including Unified Sports experiences, free Healthy Athletes screenings, a Global Youth Summit, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
The opening and closing ceremonies will be broadcast to 120 countries worldwide, with 50 hours of live television coverage. The Special Olympics will be featured on SuperSport, so keep an eye on the broadcast schedule to catch the action.