For the Opening Ceremony of the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, we were asked to celebrate the 7,000 athletes with intellectual differences arriving in Abu Dhabi to take part. But instead of ‘speaking for’ people with intellectual differences, we chose to amplify the voices that matter most.
A group of people with intellectual differences from across the UAE ¬– ‘The Makers’ – joined our team, and we worked together to design, produce, and host their Opening Ceremony. Over six months of workshops, The Makers generated the full creative experience through dance, song, and spoken word.
In a 1,500-strong cast, The Makers were our Ceremony MCs. Their voices introduced all performances, the Athletes Parade, and Special Olympics Chairman Timothy Shriver, who called 2019 ‘the best World Games ever’ for its unified quality. The Makers’ messages were the core of the Opening Ceremony, reaching 40,000 people in the stadium and millions of viewers in 160 broadcast nations worldwide.
People with intellectual differences shared a ‘Unified Speech’ with UAE Ministers and Chairmen, and when Maker Chaica clearly stated ‘we made this Ceremony’ in her speech, we knew we had achieved our purpose. Coverage cited the Ceremony as evidence that employers should hire more people with intellectual differences, and many of The Makers went on to secure employment.
This Opening Ceremony was a step towards a more unified future, where it won’t be exceptional for people with intellectual differences to join any team.