Biggest ever Great Britain team arrives at Special Olympics World Games
The largest Great Britain delegation ever sent to the Special Olympics World Games have made their bow at the opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi.
The 128-strong team were led into the Zayed Sports City Stadium by Lord Coe, and will compete in a number of sporting events over the next seven days.
Over 7,500 athletes with intellectual disabilities from a record 200 countries will be competing at the Games, in sports from bowling to badminton.
Among GB’s medal hopefuls are Kiera Byland in the cycling and Lily Mills in the tennis, and they received plenty of encouragement from famous faces back home.
“I just wanted to wish Team GB all the best in the Special Olympics this year,” said two-time Olympic champion Andy Murray in a video. “I hope you all do really well, good luck.”
Meanwhile a letter from Prince Harry was revealed to the athletes shortly before the Games began.
“While you compete over the next two weeks, know that you are an inspiration to us all, especially your friends and families,” the Duke of Sussex wrote.
Great Britain will also have representation in the basketball, and captain Samuel Scott was happy to see the inspirational messages ahead of the competition, and is setting his sights on gold.
“It’s been great to have all these celebrities sending these nice messages,” he told the Press Association.
“We are here to win gold. We win together and we lose together. I’d like to bring medals back to make our country proud.”
Meanwhile, vice-captain Adam Lynch hopes the Games will inspire others with learning disabilities.
“You can be really amazing at anything that you put your mind to regardless of what handicaps you’ve got,” he said.
“Us two are just a sample of all the athletes from around the world. You can achieve anything, that’s the message that we want to get across.”
The opening ceremony saw performances from stars such as Avril Lavigne, while this is the first time the event has been held in the Middle East.
The Great Britain team will be competing in 17 of the 24 sports on offer at the Games.