Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa (FMCSA) has announced R1 million sponsorship for 30 South African National Team athletes to compete at the 2019 Special Olympics Summer World Games in the United Arab Emirates.
The team flew out of the country on Thursday to take part in an eight-day sporting event which begins on March 14, 2019.
The Team is comprising 70 athletes, 21 coaches, and seven support staff.
They will represent the country in various sporting codes including in football, futsal (five-a-side female soccer), table tennis, equestrian, bocce, open-water swimming, athletics, and golf.
Ford Motor Company Sub-Saharan Africa Region Managing Director, Neale Hill confirmed the more than R1-million will cover the athletes’ travel and associated costs.
“It is wonderful to be part of Special Olympics, and an honour for Ford to be sponsoring 30 South African athletes this year,” said Hill.
He said his company will be behind Team SA all the way and wish them the best for the competition this year.”
“Sport is one of the best ways of unifying and uplifting people to build bright future, for these special needs athletes, and this complements our extensive involvement in soccer locally,” added Hill.
Special Olympics South Africa Chief Executive Officer, Ancilla Smith confirmed the sponsorship, saying it will offer people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to realise their potential, develop physical fitness, show courage, and experience joy and friendship.
“We are grateful for Ford’s sponsorship, as it will give these athletes a life-changing experience that serves as a catalyst for inclusion and building a lasting legacy of improved health and education,” she added.
Over 7 500 athletes from 170 countries assisted by 2 500 coaches and 20 000 volunteers will compete in 24 summer sports.
This will make it the largest international sporting and humanitarian event of the year, and a record turn-out for the Special Olympics founded in 1968.
Hill said the 2019 Special Olympics South Africa National Team hope to replicate the successes of recent years.
During Winter Games in Austria in 2017, SA National Team comprising 24 athletes returned with 27 medals, which included 16 gold medals, four unified gold medals, two silver, and five bronze medals.
In 2015, the team of 61 athletes won 17 gold, 20 silver, and 24 bronze medals.
The 2019 World Games kick off with a star-studded Opening Ceremony in the iconic Zayed Sports City Stadium in the heart of Abu Dhabi, the largest sports venue in the Persian Gulf.
Besides sports competition, the 2019 World Games will feature inspiring non-sports activities and programs, including Unified Sports experiences, free Healthy Athletes screenings, a Global Youth Summit, and the Law Enforcement Torch Run.
Organisers will broadcast the opening and closing ceremonies to 120 countries worldwide, with 50 hours of live television coverage.
SuperSport will feature Special Olympics, so keep an eye on the broadcast schedule to catch the action