With the participation of 43 countries and 768 athletes, the Middle East and North Africa region of the Special Olympics (SO MENA) chose Egypt to play host for the first ever Pan-African Games that will take place from 23 to 31 January. The decision comes as Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi is the chair of the African Union.
”It is our golden opportunity that the first time that two Special Olympics regions (Africa and the Middle East) meet in a Games will be held in Egypt as it has always been a pioneer. The Egyptian president has always supported Special Olympics athletes and people with intellectual disabilities,” Ayman Abdel-Wahab, SO MENA president and managing director, told a press conference held last week.
Ashraf Sobhi and Nevine Al-Kabbag, ministers of sports and youth and social solidarity respectively, attended the press conference and welcomed the participation in the Games. “We will do our best to make the event a success,” said Sobhi while Al-Kabbag added that the Egyptian president “is paying a lot of attention to people with intellectual disabilities as they are part of society and the Special Olympics movement gives a helping hand in making them part of the society, playing sports and joining a number of social activities.”
The first Pan-African Games will be headed by Abdel-Wahab, the only SO regional president and managing director chosen for a fifth term. He has been at his post since 2001.
The participating African countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Democratic Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Iberia, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Uganda, Rwanda, Senegal, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, South Sudan, Tanzania and Zambia.
Nine countries will represent the MENA region: Egypt (the host), Algeria, Djibouti, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Mauritania and Comoros.
The Games will include bocci, basketball, football, basketball and athletics with teams of unified sports.
The Pan-African Games will have an equal number of females and males in addition to having 3x3 basketball and 3x3 football teams.
The Air Force Defense Stadium will host the opening ceremony and the football competitions while Cairo Stadium will host the athletics, bocci and basketball events.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 9 January, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.