Sports lovers in Yemen sponsor Olympic team in Ireland [Archives:2003/645/Reportage]

June 26 2003
Photo from archived article: photos/645/report3_1
Photo from archived article: photos/645/report3_1
Thanks to tens of local and international companies in Yemen along with sports lovers from the local and expatriate community, the Yemeni Olympic team is currently participating in the Special Olympics being held in Dublin solely on the expense of those sponsors and with no governmental involvement.
A crowd of 85,000 spectators, and more importantly, 7,000 athletes were treated to a fantastically colorful and emotionally charged opening ceremony to mark the beginning of the 2003 Special Olympic World games in Dublin, Ireland on Saturday night.
The Games, which pitch competitors from around the world with learning disabilities against each other in various sporting events, seek to promote awareness and inclusion of those afflicted with such handicaps worldwide.
Competitors from 160 countries were given a rousing reception as they entered Croke Park Stadium. An especially loud cheer was given to the athletes arriving from SARS affected countries, who risked not making it to the games on time, and the Iraqi team, who were flown to Ireland aboard a private aircraft, courtesy of Dennis O'Brien, who organized the event.
The 20 strong Yemeni team of 12 athletes and 8 helpers, who will be competing in the volleyball and track events were certainly enjoying the attention, waving and smiling as they made their way around the stadium, to the cheers of encouragement from the crowd.
Over 30,000 people have volunteered to help out during the games, giving freely of their time and expertise, and all were present for the opening spectacle.
A host of famous sportsmen, actors and singers, amongst them Muhammad Ali, Bono and Jon Bon Jovi joined dignitaries from around the world, including Prince Ra'ad Zeid of Jordan in celebrating the official opening of the games by Nelson Mandela.
The climax of the evening was the lighting of the 'Flame of Hope', which David McCauley, a special athlete, had the honour of lighting. The torch which he carried into the stadium at the end of a spectacular musical and visual display, had made its way 15,000 kilometres from Athens in Greece, being carried at various stages by athletes with learning disabilities by road to Ireland.
This is the first time the Games have been held outside the United States since their inception in 1968. Preparation for the opening ceremony took two years and it is estimated that an audience of 100 million watched the ceremony on television around the world. Performances were given by dance troupes and popular singers to the delight of all. The performance of an Irish dance by the world-renowned 'Riverdance' group garnered a standing ovation, and the night ended in extraordinary style with a fireworks extravaganza.
As the official Olympic oath to the games pronounces “Let me win, but if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt”. There are no losers in these games, indeed they bear testament to the strength and resilience of the competitors in the face of adversity, and so each one can truly call him or herself a winner. All the very best is wished to the competitors as they partake in their unique and very worthwhile competition.
It is worth noting that the organizers of the event, who made extensive efforts to have it succeed were mainly: Mrs. Iman Hashem Engad, supported by a committee consisting of: Mrs. Anita Culazzo, Mrs. Amal Hull, Mrs. Lisa Abuhamad, Mrs. Grainne Henry, and Dr. Jacques Veerman.
Similarly, the sponsors who were generous and thoughtful enough to support the Yemeni team's participation were: Spacetel, Teleyemen, Yemenia, Yemen catering Company
Yemen Hunt Oil Company, Jannah Hunt Oil Company, Abdulwahab Thabet, Dr.Yahya Humaid, Dr. Bashar Ishaq, Shoruq Pharmacy, Candian Nexen Oil company, Dr. Mohammed Basahi, Mr. Hussein al Hashidi, MI Drilling Company, Dove Energy, Mr. Louis Holdert in Holland, Intracs Catering Company, and the Ministry of Health and Population.