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  • Ahmed Saleh

The Riyadh 2023 World Combat Games leaves a remarkable legacy of inclusivity

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia – At the conclusion of the Riyadh 2023 World Combat Games, it's clear that one of the most significant legacies of the 11-day event will be its remarkable inclusivity. This event stands out as the world's first major sports competition where athletes of all abilities – able-bodied, Para, and Special – competed together on the same stage, representing the same national teams and pursuing a common goal. A unified medals table captured the podium finishes from all disciplines.

In total, 60 Para and Special athletes, hailing from 32 countries, showcased their extraordinary talents in 16 martial arts and combat sports, including Ju-Jitsu, Aikido, Armwrestling, Muaythai, SAMBO, and Savate. These exceptional athletes, who possess physical, intellectual, or visual impairments, joined their able-bodied counterparts in a truly groundbreaking sporting spectacle.

The Games witnessed remarkable achievements and showcased the indomitable spirit of these athletes. Elder Luis Moreno Garcia from Venezuela made history by winning the first gold medal in the Men’s Blind SAMBO category. His success serves as a testament to the transformative power of sports in opening new horizons and providing individuals with disabilities the opportunity to experience a life akin to that of ordinary people.

The commitment to inclusivity, non-discrimination, and equality at Riyadh 2023 is a testament to the ambitious Vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This initiative aims to create a vibrant society, a thriving economy, and an ambitious nation, with a particular emphasis on promoting sports for all, including those with disabilities. The inclusion of Para and Special athletes in Riyadh 2023 reflects the Kingdom's dedication to equality and global sporting participation.

This act also sends a potent message of empowerment. The Chair of the World Combat Games, Stephan Fox, noted the profound impact of including Para and Special athletes in all aspects of the event, from medal ceremonies to opening and closing ceremonies. While organizing an all-inclusive event requires logistical efforts, such as ensuring wheelchair accessibility and appropriate transportation, the emotional impact on the athletes justifies these challenges. The smiles, tears, and joy seen at the medal ceremonies make it clear that the effort was completely worthwhile.

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