Community front and center as Abu Dhabi prepares for swimming


For the casual sports fan, Abu Dhabi is probably best known for hosting the season finale of the Formula 1 World Championship.

The capital of the United Arab Emirates has hosted an F1 race since 2009 and will do so again from December 9-12 this year.

Normally, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix would close the curtain on the emirate’s world-class sports calendar, which covers the best of F1, cycling, golf, tennis, triathlon, marathon, jiu- jitsu, cricket and more. But 2021 will be different as the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) arrive in spectacular style from December 16-21, giving a huge boost to a thriving aquatic scene that is supported by elite competitive action.

Long term commitment

The event, which will attract more than 1,100 athletes from more than 180 federations, will mark the culmination of a long-term partnership between the United Arab Emirates and Fina, the world’s governing body for aquatic sports.

The championships will take place at the Etihad Arena, an 18,000-seat venue that opened in January with three Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fight cards. Such was the success of the events, the UFC returned to the arena on October 30.

Abu Dhabi’s major events credentials have been further strengthened in recent weeks, with the city having been one of the hosts of the International Cricket Council T20 World Cup. A triathlon world championship series event was also staged on November 5, while Abu Dhabi’s net will be even wider next year when the city hosts two NBA preseason games in October. – the first of this type in the United Arab Emirates.

Prior to that, attention is firmly on the World Swimming Championships (25m) – an event that has been brewing for six years after the Covid-19 pandemic forced its 12-month postponement.

“Abu Dhabi, which hosts the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) represents the culmination of a five-year partnership with FINA, dating back to 2015, when the capital of the United Arab Emirates hosted its first swim. in open water, “said Abdulla Alwheibi, the championships tournament. director of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

“Since then, the UAE has hosted a series of FINA World Cup events, which has clearly helped to generate interest in the field of aquatics in local communities, as well as raising the profile of Abu Dhabi in the global aquatic domain. “

Natural progression

Alwheibi believes that hosting major swimming and water events is a “natural progression” for a destination located on the Persian Gulf coast and offering a wide range of open and indoor swimming opportunities for locals and tourists alike. visitors.

The official logo for next month’s championships features an elite pearl swimmer in the water. The logo is a nod to the pearl dive, which was the cornerstone of the UAE economy in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

“It is representative of both the city’s proud heritage and the competitive nature of the championships,” said Alwheibi.

As Etihad Arena is not primarily an aquatic venue, two swimming pools, measuring 25m x 26m and 25m x 20m, are shipped from Italy to the United Arab Emirates via 10 containers. The water will be pumped into the pools for three to four days and then it will take four days to dismantle the facilities after the event.

Alwheibi said the main pool will likely remain in Abu Dhabi after the event, with the Sports Council currently considering moving it to a local sports center where it will serve as an outdoor pool for the community.

“Most of our legacy efforts will focus on involving the local community,” he says. “We recently launched several swim programs providing the local community with access to free learn to swim lessons and swim safety programs, in partnership with the UAE Swimming Federation and Daman, one of the leading health insurance specialists in the country.

“We are also working closely with local schools and swim clubs to ensure that hosting this event sparks a passion among young people nationwide – both providing access to clinics and questions – answers with the superstar athletes who come to compete, as well as access to all the actions of the championships. “

Aquatic dynamics

In the future, the Sports Council will seek to maintain the momentum of water sports in the city by organizing local, regional and international swimming events. In October, Abu Dhabi’s Mohammed bin Zayed City Pool hosted the Arab Swimming Championships, which drew 174 swimmers from 17 countries.

The Sports Council has set a daily participation goal of 2,500 during the championships – a goal Alwheibi says they are “heading well for.” Interest in the event was driven by the Sports Council’s extensive outreach programs involving swim clubs across the country, with support from the UAE Swimming Federation.

Many UAE swim clubs will participate in the event, which will be supported by more than 500 volunteers. The “market street”, a family-friendly interactive village, will aim to broaden the appeal of the centerpiece of water sports.

“Besides the public interest, the commercial interest is very encouraging,” says Alwheibi. “In addition to welcoming many of Fina’s international sponsors to the event, we have partnered with several major brands such as Etihad Airways, Miral, Aldar, Daman National Health Insurance, FINIS and Xerox. This will add up to a fantastic week of entertainment for swimming enthusiasts, sports enthusiasts, businesses and families across the UAE.

(Giorgio Scala / Deepbluemedia / Insidefoto)

Heritage

Alwheibi hopes that the event’s impact on legacy can be extended.

Improvements in health and wellness are targeted, as well as strengthening community spirit, uncovering local talent and enhancing Abu Dhabi’s burgeoning reputation as a world-class destination for tourists. sports and water sports.

“For some time now, Abu Dhabi has been on a clearly defined path of making sport a way of life for our community, which is evident from our strategic development of sport in the emirate,” Alwheibi said. “Our efficient Emirate-wide sporting calendar includes the organization of regular community events, races and activations, as well as elite world championship events like this one.

“If we look at high performance sport, just look at the multiple athletes who have represented the United Arab Emirates at the Olympics, as well as many Olympians who have chosen the United Arab Emirates as their training base since last last year. Fina event organized in United Arab Emirates.

“Seeing young Emirati swimmers – like Yousuf Al Matrooshi, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, and Layla Al Khatib – compete here in December, will be extremely inspiring for the young people in the crowd and engage the community, and hopefully. , will leave a legacy for sport in the region.

About Walter J. Leslie

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