United Arab Emirates hosts the 2019 Special Olympics World Games

The 2019 Special Olympics World Games, which took place March 14–21 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, welcomed athletes, coaches, volunteers and spectators from 190 countries — making it the largest humanitarian sporting event of the year.

Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, a sister of President John F. Kennedy, the Special Olympics movement provides year-round training and athletic competition in a variety of Olympic-type sports for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. The first international games, held in July 1968, took place in Chicago.

Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Pence, led the U.S. delegation to the 2019 Games and attended the opening ceremony. The eight-day event marked the first time the Special Olympics World Games were held in the Middle East/North Africa region.

An estimated 7,500 athletes competed in 24 summer sports, including gymnastics, swimming, basketball, power lifting, volleyball, soccer and more. Here are a few glimpses of the athletes and sports that helped make the 2019 Games a success.

Athlete lifting barbell with weights (© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

A competitor participates in the power lifting competition at the Special Olympics World Games, held at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre in the United Arab Emirates.


Two athletes swimming in lanes (© Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)
(© Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images)

A competitor from Uganda, left, competes in the 25-meter breaststroke swimming race at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.


Gymnast above balance beam (© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

An athlete from Uzbekistan, performing on the balance beam, competes in Artistic Gymnastics disciplines.


Woman playing basketball (© Dominicka Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

The United Arab Emirates women’s basketball team battles Kazakhstan.


Man and boy hugging (© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)
(© Dominika Zarzycka/NurPhoto/Getty Images)

A judo athlete hugs his coach after competing at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

The Special Olympics World Games alternate between summer and winter games in two-year cycles. There is no maximum age limit for participating athletes; the minimum age is 8 years old.