The Middle East and North Africa Special Olympics Regional Games were held at NYU Abu Dhabi between March 14 and March 23. This marked the ninth edition of the MENA Regional Games, which will be followed by the World Games in March 2019, also on the NYUAD campus.
The UAE’s vision to integrate people with special needs into society was a key factor that led the Special Olympics International Board of Directors approving Abu Dhabi as the site for the World Games.
"Having the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi is revolutionary for our movement and for the Middle East Region," said Timothy Shriver
, the Chairman of the Special Olympics.
Furthermore, one of the aims of the Special Olympics is to engage the youth in both the organization and leadership objectives of the Games. This was accomplished to a high degree with the Games taking place at NYUAD, an environment that fosters learning and the creation of global leaders. A Youth Summit was also held so that young people could learn about the Special Olympics, including its objectives and achievements.
The NYUAD community certainly made the most of this opportunity, despite the fact that the Games overlapped with students’ spring break. Over 100 community members including students, faculty members and staff volunteered at this event, spreading positive energy and supporting athletes by assisting them administratively. Even those who were not volunteers cheered on the athletes at the awards ceremony held in the Central Plaza and at a range of activities that took place on the final day of the Olympics.
The Host Town program was also launched for the first time at the MENA Regional Games, and athletes and coaches from various countries joined with UAE families to experience UAE culture and watch the competitions.
“The Regional Special Olympics was one of the most enriching events I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of. The enthusiasm and energy of the athletes was absolutely incredible and it was truly inspirational how one can do so much by giving so little,” said Mehak Sangani, Class of 2021, who volunteered at the MENA Special Olympics Regional Games.
Written in Water
On March 21 and March 22, the Ragamala Dance Company presented the Middle Eastern premiere of Written in Water, co-commissioned by the Arts Center. This magical and otherworldly performance was conceived and choreographed by Co-Artistic Directors Ranee Ramaswamy and Aparna Ramaswamy.
Outside the Red Theater, speakers blared upbeat Indian music while samosas, pani puri and other delectable traditional dishes were served in preparation for the show.
This served merely as a lead-up to the performance that swept its audience into the ancient Indian board game Paramapadam, also known as Snakes and Ladders.
Five dancers made their way across a digital projection of the famous board game, symbolically describing the human condition and the desire to connect with a higher power.
The show was an amalgamation of a host of artistic concepts and decisions. The creators combined the game Snakes and Ladders with a Sufi Poem titled The Conference of the Birds to form the overarching message. The composer, Amir el-Saffar, used a mix of maqam and Carnatic music when writing the score. The show itself used traditional bharatanatyam as well as digital projections of works by visual artist Keshav to create a rare experience for its audience.
Although the performance was accompanied by the aforementioned elements, the pure classical dancing combined with the beautiful live music performance was enough to capture the awe and attention of the viewers.
“It was amazing to see how an Indian classical dance form can evolve and manifest in such a diverse way. All the layers [of] music, projection, poetry and images converged with the exquisite dance. It was breathtaking,” said Sooji Kim, Class of 2020.
Shalini Corea is Deputy News Editor. Email her at email@example.com.