we showed the world the real meaning of determination

Special Olympics Ceremonies 2019 – Special Olympics International


Use the Opening Ceremony to challenge perceptions of people with intellectual disabilities.


Bringing together 7,000 athletes from 190 nations, the 2019 Special Olympics took place in the Middle East for the first time, in Abu Dhabi.

We were asked to create Opening and Closing Ceremonies that would show the world what people with intellectual disabilities (ID) can achieve.


‘We Made It’ – sharing their own truths

Rather than telling the stories of people with ID – or ‘People of Determination’ as they are known in the UAE – we worked with them, as part of our team, helping them to use their own voices to design the ceremonies and show the world the great things they are capable of.

So the athletes and The Makers were truly able to say ‘We Made It’ – we made it to the Games, and we made this Ceremony.



A Celebration of Determination

Telling Their Own Stories

A moving Opening Address, celebrating the human spirit that binds us, was given by Makers Asma and Nazeer, who also acted as MCs for the night.


A Cast of Thousands

Our 1,500-strong cast of volunteer dancers, athletes, Special Olympics medallists, celebrity ambassadors, and 750 UAE schoolchildren were guided by the Makers – the creators, producers and hosts.

A Vision of Unity

500 young volunteers took part in a ‘Perpetual Motion’ performance of choreography and spoken word, and hundreds of children from across the UAE sang in a Unified Choir.

A Spark of Hope

A combined team of Special Olympics athletes and Olympians carried the Flame of Hope into the stadium, lighting a 10-metre-high Cauldron, engraved with 195 messages of support from ID communities around the world.

A Constellation of Stars

His Highness Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, declared the games open, and the Closing Ceremony was lit up by local and international performers including Nicole Scherzinger.

An Audience of Millions

With 40,000 live audience members, the events were broadcast live to millions of viewers across 160 nations.

The Most Inclusive Ever

More importantly, we amplified voices that too often go unheard to millions of people worldwide, setting a new standard for inclusion at future Special Olympics ceremonies.

The Most Empowering Ever

And this job changed lives: some of our Makers have gone on to secure public speaking roles, creative commissions, sports awards, and employment – continuing to show the world what they’re capable of.