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UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Sports

Aref Al Awani

Secretary General, Abu Dhabi Sports Council

Bio

Aref Al Awani is Secretary General of Abu Dhabi Sports Council.

"We will go for whatever sporting events that would benefit the emirate of Abu Dhabi and towards our community."
Abu Dhabi Sports Council works on hosting world-class events in Abu Dhabi and the region to enhance the country’s reputation as a sports hub, attract more tourists, and promote healthier lifestyles.
What will be the impact of world-class events taking place in Abu Dhabi and the region?

The UAE and Abu Dhabi is now renowned as host of a number of world-class sporting events. It has been going on for years with new events added to the schedule every passing year. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf tournament, a European Tour event, is one of the longest serving competitions in Abu Dhabi staged since 2006. There are many such events like the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix launched in 2009 and so on. In 2022, we launched the UAE Cycling Tour to the annual men’s UAE Tour and the WTA Abu Dhabi Women’s Tennis. The list goes on and when we are hosting such events, we strive to ensure there are benefits for the community as well. When we hosted the ADNOC Abu Dhabi marathon, for example, the impact on the local community was amazing. The same is true for cycling. We organized the two World Tour events, the response and participation from the community has been overwhelming.

You have also created a 360-App program involving the community’s well-being. How does this initiative also generate the involvement of young athletes in the community?

The 360 is a platform combining all the community pillars related to being active and having a healthy lifestyle. It promotes a healthier lifestyle on a platform where users can select the events they would like to participate in. We decided to work with other government groups to create something for our community where people can have a source of information related to nutrition, training, and fitness. At the same time, they are changing their mindsets by having a mindful lifestyle in which they can practice different techniques related to breathing, yoga, meditation, and much more. The 360 is a comprehensive platform combining all our community events. There are over 70 community events every year, plus international events, as well as more than 100 events with third parties in the private sector, such as clubs and national competitions. All these community events will now be promoted on the App. Users can track their record and development related to fitness and chart their progress.

The council hosts the world’s largest mass participation sporting event, the IMGS Master Games. What are the preparation guidelines to consider for this peak event?

The ADNOC Abu Dhabi Marathon last December drew more than 20,000 runners across all the categories while the 2022 Spartan World Championship and the World Triathlon Finals in March attracted a large number of community participants as well. The Master Games has been a massive success internationally and we expect a gathering of over 10,000 competitors when we host it in 2026. We meet all the safety standards in Abu Dhabi and the UAE and also have a solid infrastructure and an attractive environment for people to visit and live here. We also want to motivate people to be healthier even if they are over the age of competition. We look forward to hosting the Master Games again, and we promise participants a great time. We constantly work to improve our events. We also look at other events happening worldwide and learn from their best practices and mistakes. We are pleased to receive many visitors and participants from all over the world so they can embrace the country and benefit from our events.

How does Abu Dhabi’s position as a sports hub in the region affect the diversification of the economy?

Sports are related to the country’s health sector as well as sports tourism. The objective is to attract more tourists to visit the country. At the same time, it motivates the nation’s new generation to keep working, challenging, competing, and participating on a higher level. It also encourages them to participate in more regional and global events and evaluate themselves against other countries.

What are Abu Dhabi’s strategies and vision in terms of introducing new sports in the coming years?

We will go for whatever sporting events that would benefit the emirate of Abu Dhabi and towards our community. We are well established as an international hub, thanks to a number of world-class sporting events which we host annually. They have been taking place even during the height of the pandemic. For example, we successfully hosted the Indian Premier League, the biggest franchise cricket tournament in the world, during the pandemic, and many other events like the UFC, UAE Tour, the World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship, to name a few. Our strategy is to always look ahead to keep improving on every event we host annually and keep adding more to the ever-growing list. Our leaders continue to inspire us by providing all the support and encouragement, to keep improving to take the events we host to the next level.

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