When the sharpest words wanna cut me down. I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out. I am brave, I am bruised. I am who I'm meant to be, this is me.
What better way to close the 2019 Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi than with Keala Settle (think Greatest Showman) pound out This is Me. Only a month ago had I had the lyrics framed for my wife Lucy as it’s words that mean so much to us as a family (and our eldest Clemmie, LOVES it!).
It’s a great opportunity to reflect on what’s just happened, not only over the past 2 weeks but past 2 years being involved with the Special Olympics movement. Our journey as a business started simultaneously with the birth of our second daughter, Tallulah. Unbeknown to us, she was born with Down Syndrome. Cue serious concerns, denial, even rejection. What on earth did the future hold now? That coincided with us pitching for some of the work with the Local Organising Committee of the World Games in Abu Dhabi. Suddenly a project that we knew very little about took on a whole new meaning. And when we pitched for the work in front of clients, past and present, peers and colleagues, I cried - it had become personal to me and my family both at home and at work and I vowed that we would do all we could to contribute to the game’s success and more importantly the legacy it will leave behind.
Fast forward 2 years later Tallulah has and continues to bring us so much joy and our family is as strong as ever. And hand on heart I can say in the 18 years of working in the industry it’s the most impactful project I have ever had the pleasure of being involved in. The past two years has only confirmed what I already knew about myself. Those projects that can genuinely shift the needle in society are the ones that give back the most and the ones that I, personally, want to be part of, both as an individual and an employer. And Special Olympics has done that more than anything else. What Eunice Kennedy Shriver created 50 years ago, and what Tim and the team at Special Olympics International continue to do, day in, day out, not to mention the endless other stakeholders involved all around the globe, is nothing short of remarkable. Special Olympics is 50 years young and what Abu Dhabi has shown the world is that the movement will only continue to grow.
As a parent of a child with Determination we have seen the impact the games have had first hand on Abu Dhabi and UAE society. We have been humbled by the way in which the country has embraced the need for greater awareness, acceptance and inclusion for People with Determination and the Games has only supercharged the need to do more – and hearing the country announce that it will be committing to the legacy of the games by both changing and creating national policy is so heart-warming. It makes us think, as a family, that there really is a rightful place for us and more importantly Tallulah for years to come. I’m not saying the UAE is perfect by any means, but their commitment to addressing and altering a deep-rooted challenge within society should be applauded. There aren’t many other places on the planet that would have the conviction to dedicating a whole year to Tolerance – ensuring all 9.4 million plus inhabitants remind themselves to treat others as they would like to be treated themselves.
Over the next few weeks we’ll get to hear all the amazing stats and more and more of the stories that make the games truly unique – and some of them are game changers. But for now, Abu Dhabi take a bow. You’ve delivered a Games that has ignited its own national and regional movements, convinced a society that its ok to embrace and include people that are differently able and set the benchmark for years to come.
The final word must go to the athletes. For they are the true heroes of what we’ve just witnessed. They embody the notion that impossible is nothing. And they do it with a smile on their face. A good friend said to me this week to observe the athletes participating for they will redefine the meaning of joy. He’s so right. We’ve witnessed it first hand and its left us craving more.
And just watch this space.Tallulah will be a Special Olympian one day. For that I’m certain.
Look out 'cause here I come (look out 'cause here I come). And I'm marching on to the beat I drum (marching on, marching, marching on). I'm not scared to be seen, I make no apologies, this is me.
By Mike Davis, Regional Director - Middle East at CSM Sport & Entertainment