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HE Aref Hamad Al Awani

UAE, UAE, ABU DHABI - Tourism

Sprint to Win

General Secretary, Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC)

Bio

HE Aref Hamad Al Awani has a degree in Business Administration and Bank Services from UAE University. He has over 16 years of experience in the management of administrative and sporting affairs. He is currently the General Secretary of the ADSC.

TBY talks to HE Aref Hamad Al Awani, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), on the role of sports in the Emirate and UAE.

How are sports a part of the culture in Abu Dhabi and the UAE?

Whether water sports, such as sailing and swimming, or equestrian sports, polo, or camel racing, there is a strong historical connection between the people of the UAE and sports, both traditional and modern. The late Sheikh Zayed continuously supported sport and the construction of sporting venues. In 1979 we hosted the qualifications for the Asian Cup at Zayed Stadium, our national stadium, which still hosts many leading football and sports events today. We also had an ice skating rink built in Zayed Sports City around the same time. We are proud today that the Abu Dhabi ice hockey team is becoming one of the top Division III teams in the Asian league. This is from a city not known for its winter sports. We also founded the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak Sports Academy for Women’s Sports to raise awareness and education about sport for women, and to sponsor some of Abu Dhabi’s female sporting talents. These and other sporting developments in Abu Dhabi began with Sheikh Zayed’s vision, and continue today with our leadership and our passion for sport. The role of sport is very important for our communities, our families, and our country.

What is the next phase of development for the sports sector in Abu Dhabi?

At this stage we are trying to bring in more sporting events that have a direct benefit on the community and individuals using a one-to-one or B2B approach, thus promoting sport as a lifestyle. We would like to keep our calendar busy throughout the year, but we are selective in what we host, mainly choosing events that have an international appeal, while not overlapping with local sporting events. We are also aiming to establish different classes of tournaments. There is a need for a mix between hosting official tournaments sanctioned by world federations and other countries, and having exhibition tournaments with a more social appeal. Part of our vision now is to concentrate on hosting sanctioned tournaments that are part of the tournament calendars of world federations.

How important is it for private-sector companies to play a role in promoting sports and sporting events in Abu Dhabi?

Commercially, we would like to bring on board more companies from the private sector to show them that they can participate in sports by sponsoring social events or big international events. Major companies such as HSBC, Etihad, Mercedes Benz, Borouge, and ADNOC are doing a very good job. They are giving more, and truly understand the role they can play within the sporting community. They believe in the message that sports can deliver. When companies sponsor or work in partnership with an event they see immediate economic returns.

What is your main aim as you look to the future of sport in Abu Dhabi?

Now with both the infrastructure in place and the government support, there is an opportunity to have more champions in different sports, whether it is running, cycling, the triathlon, or tennis. This is what we are working toward and planning for in the future. As an example, Mohammed Khalifa Al Qubaisi is the President of the Emirates Bowling Federation; he is very successful in his career working with ADNOC, but in 1983 he was also the World Bowling Champion. We also have two chess world champions. These sporting figures act as role models. We would like to nurture more sporting heroes in different disciplines. For our champions it is a great source of national pride and the whole country gets involved.

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