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Pam O’Donnell in Abu Dhabi – The Diary!

​Referee Pamela O’Donnell is currently one of a select number of referees officiating in the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. Pam is kindly providing regular updates on her experiences throughout the event.
Days 7-8
Day 7 was Bronze Medal day with some fantastic Volleyball on show – many of the matches went the full three sets which meant referee concentration had to high throughout. 
After the bronze medal matches it was on to the ‘Unified Games’ – this is where all players, coaches and celebs mixed in and represent various teams. Vladimir Grbic – a friend of Volleyball Ireland – participated in his role as a Special Olympics Ambassador.  The Unified part of the Special Olympics was great fun.

The final day of competition was of course the Gold Medal matches. Again as throughout the week the standard was very high. There were 9 Gold Medal matches in total with 4 in Unified, 3 Traditional Men and 2 Unified Women. Taking home the gold were USA, South Korea, Jamaica, Tanzania, Russia, UAE, Nigeria, Botswana and Peru – so as you can see champions from around the World. 

Abu Dhabi put on a magical show – it was really a brilliantly ran event that will leave a positive legacy here in the Middle East. The Irish team have performed well across all sports ending up with 86 medals of which 30 were Gold.

I’ll get one day of rest before heading back to Dublin with Team Ireland on Friday morning. 

Days 3-6
The last few days have seen the seeding rounds completed for all 32 teams. There has been some excellent Volleyball on display which is testament to the tireless work of volunteers and coaches across each Special Olympics Federation. The competition has been very strong.
There has been some very close contested matches as we head into the Bronze Medal Matches today (March 19th) and Gold Medal Games tomorrow.
I’ve had the pleasure of working with some old friends from the 2003 World Games in Ireland, as well as some new acquaintances. My referee crew for one of the games featured Daniel Leake (USA), Jordan Leake (USA), Charles Wambua (Kenya), Kristine Hughes (Special Olympics Athlete Official and Rick Laskey (USA). Those who remember the event in 2003 will recognise Daniel and Rick. Daniel is the technical delegate for the Volleyball Games and Rick is Head of the Divisioning Games. I had the pleasure of refereeing Jamaica v Japan with Rick over the weekend. Sunday was extra special as I got to wear my Green Irish Jersey on Paddy’s Day!
Team Ireland are performing really well in range of sports which has seen 20 Gold medals so far and 56 in total coming back home. There’s still more to come!!   

Day 1 & 2
The Special Olympics World Games welcomes 7,500 athletes from 200 countries making it the biggest humanitarian sporting event in the world ever! Over 20,000 volunteers are making the Games a reality.
There are 24 sports and 8 days of competition held in the middle East. The Volleyball element features 32 teams of which 17 are unified Men, 6 unified Women and 9 traditional male teams.
The Venue for the Volleyball event is the stunning Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center (ADNEC). It is the main hub of sports activities during the games and will host 10 sporting events. It’s the largest exhibition centre in the Middle East – and these guys don’t do small!
My role for the first two days is part of the ‘Divisioning Team’ which is done by all experiences of Special Olympics Referees. The job is to watch every match for all teams to assess ball handling, serving, court awareness and net play. The aim here is to assess each team and place them into pools of evenly aligned teams ahead of the ‘completion rounds’.
It’s been great to catch up with some faces from the 2003 World Games in Ireland, such as the Technical Delegate Daniel Leake who was Assistant TD 16 years ago in Dublin. I also met Head of Divisioning Rick Laskey (pictured) who has fond memories of Ireland 2003.
Team Ireland features the biggest ever delegation of our Athletes with 91 competitors, 49 coaches/staff and 400 supporters making the journey.
More info on the World Games can be found at and keep an eye on Special Olympics Ireland’s social media and website for updates
— Pam will be providing more updates over the coming days.


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