Upon arrival at Dubai International Airport (UAE) members of the Jamaica Middle East Diaspora, adorned in Gold, Green and Black, were on hand to greet the Jamaican contingent of athlete’s coaches and medical staff with flowers, gifts, enthusiastic hugs and kisses and of course numerous selfies.

The welcome did not stop there, within 24 hours of the team’s arrival, in the UAE, and a very long flight, the Jamaican contingent were more than happy to accept an invitation from Cool Runnings Events organizer Daron Williams who hosted the team at the Els Golf Club Dubai, helped by Jamaican Middle East Diaspora.

On entering the Els Club, The Jamaican Special Olympics Team (JSOT) were welcomed by a cheering crowd of Jamaican flag waving revellers, with a sound track of Reggae music. Judging by the expressions on the faces of the JSOT, they genuinely appeared to be shocked, surprised and in some cases overwhelmed by the enthusiastic reception.

The normally effervescent Mrs. Lorna Bell Executive Director of Special Olympics eloquently expressed her gratitude to all those parties that had made the event happen, through tears of joy she eloquently told the attentive revellers of the difficult road that had been travelled, to raise the funds for flights, while congratulating the athletes for their hard work and many sacrifices they had made to simply to reach the World Games.

The customarily reserved Chargé d' Affaires, Nigel Smith from the Jamaican Embassy did not hesitate to take the opportunity to welcome the JSOT and wish them well and every success in the World Games Abu Dhabi 2019.

Daron Williams of Cool Runnings and MC Lennox Christie of (JMED) both delivered pride enthused speeches of motivation and inspiration, sprinkled with Jamaican style humour, but the most heartfelt speech was by H.E. Remigio Maradona the Secretary-General of Institution for the use of Micro-Algae Spirulina Against Malnutrition (IIMSAM) who said that,

The Late Dr. Hope P. White Davis, Founder and President of World Association of Former United Nations Interns and Fellows, who had mentored him for was the greatest Jamaica he had ever known”

Maradona also expressed how the late Dr White-Davis made him who he is today, despite facing the challenges of being disabled by Polio since childhood.

Notwithstanding the frivolities, food and entertainment, one of the most emotional moments of the Carnival was when the yellow vested members of the Jamaican Olympic team stood in unison with attending guests who, spontaneously stood for and sang the Jamaican National Anthem.

Once the opening formalities of the Carnival were complete, I managed to speak with the event organizer Daron Williams and asked him what motivated him to organize this welcome Carnival, He passionately stated,

As a Jamaican who loves all things Jamaican, I wanted to ensure that the Jamaican Special Olympics Team Felt welcome in the UAE by showing them that they have the love, support and respect of Jamaicans in the UAE.

As Jamaicans, we are an amazing people, we continue to overcome adversity and succeed. The presence of the JSOT team at the Special World Championship Games, here in the UAE is a testament to that ever-present Jamaican trait of being determined to succeed regardless of the barriers we sometimes face”

This Caribbean themed Carnival welcome, included catering by Reggae Birds and Patties by Papa Burties. No Caribbean event in the UAE would be the same without Reggae DJ Sir Lennox and DJ’s and a selection of other DJ’s organized by Don Corneille of Redemption Lifestyle organized to deliver soundtracks that would later lift the roof off of the normally exclusive and sedate Els Club.

Without hesitation, The Els Club Manager Miles Entwistle and events manager Verah Henry both said the event was a success and an amazing cultural experience. Judging by the atmosphere and the reaction of the JSOT, and the revellers, they were absolutely correct.

Article & Photos by Delroy Constantine-Simms