Putting Abu Dhabi on the sporting map

Mohammed Ibrahim al Mahmood, secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, praises capital's achievements for hosting events and outlines future plans.

Mohammed Ibrahim al Mahmood, the secretary general of Abu Dhabi Sports Council, speaking yesterday to announce the nominees for the Laureus Sports Awards, says the council's vision is to portray the capital as a sporting venue for international events, as well as create a sporting culture among the city's youth. Sammy Dallal / The National
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ABU DHABI // The UAE is ready to lend whatever support Qatar may need when its Gulf neighbour hosts the World Cup for the first time.

Qatar stunned much of the football world last month when it won the right to stage the 2022 tournament and, even though the event is 11 years away, there is a massive amount of work to be done.

This includes building 12 stadiums and 36 training sites while 24 new hotels have been proposed to accommodate thousands of visiting supporters from around the globe.

And the UAE is standing by to help, should Qatar need any.

"It is still a long way from now and it's up to the two federations to discuss any logistical issues and, if a need arises, Abu Dhabi will be ready for any contingency plans," Mohammed Ibrahim al Mahmood, secretary general of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), said yesterday. However, al Mahmood ruled out the prospect of the two nations jointly staging the event - as Japan and South Korea did in 2002.

"At this moment, we certainly are not any part of Qatar staging the World Cup. They made a successful bid and we are very happy for them. Qatar will obviously take all the laurels of winning the bid and they deserve it.

"Qatar's success is also a boon to the region and you never know of the opportunities that may come our way while our neighbour and brother will host the biggest sporting extravaganza on Earth."

Al Mahmood was not alone in praising Qatar's successful bid. He was joined by Marcel Desailly, the former France football international and a member of the 1998 World Cup winning team.

"I am on Sepp Blatter's side in providing Russia and Qatar with the opportunities," Desailly said yesterday at a media event at the Emirates Palace hotel to announce the nominees for the 2011 Laureus World Sports Awards.

"I truly believe in taking the game beyond the boundaries of the established nations. The football World Cup is not only a great sporting event but it helps to develop the sport in all continents, and I am sure Russia and Qatar and the entire region will hugely benefit.

"I am sure Qatar will take the game into a new level in terms of technology and facilities. A World Cup in the region will also help the sport grow and teams get stronger with the incentive to play on the big stage."

The ADSC's aim, meanwhile, is to make the capital an international sporting hub as well as developing grass-roots talent.

Al Mahmood believes that in less than four years they have showcased more than their fair share of the sporting glitz and helped create awareness among the country's youth.

"The success we have had during this short period is not for us to talk about, but the international events Abu Dhabi has staged in the past three years speaks by itself," al Mahmood said. "We have a full calendar of international sporting events and I can only think it will keep growing in the next few years. Every single international event attracts the world's media and spotlight on Abu Dhabi as one of the most exciting new sporting venues.

"We have a full agenda of events starting from this January and also a few ideas to be implemented, with plans for cricket, one of the sporting events that has still to come under our purview. There is no rush to take all at once, but we will gradually have all the sports under our organisation, mostly to help growth and development at all levels."

The capital's year started with the Abu Dhabi World Tennis Championship that saw top-seeded players Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer feature in the final.

Next is the Abu Dhabi Championship, golf's European Tour curtain-raiser tournament from January 20 to 23. It will be followed by the Laureus Awards in February.

The ADSC's vision is not just to portray the city as a sporting venue for international events, but also to create a sporting culture among the capital's children.

"We have ventured into community sport and we are helping and supporting the local clubs.

"We have created new facilities, particularly individual medal winning sports. We have set up five training centres for the youth to choose from boxing, judo and fencing.

"These facilities are in full swing and now the athletic federation has made a proposal to set up a centre of excellence for women athletes, and it is under consideration."

Abu Dhabi has been the venue for the Laureus World Sports Awards for two successive years and it is likely the presentation ceremony will remain in the capital.

"We haven't had a better welcome and a better host than Abu Dhabi," Dr Guy Sanan, the Laureus chief executive, said. "There are a few cities interested in hosting this event but we will have a talk with Abu Dhabi before considering the other venues."