500 athletes to mark National Olympic Day

Amateur athletes from the seven emirates will come together to celebrate National Olympic Day on Thursday.
Emirati entertainers Saoud Al Kaabi and Fayez Al Saeed, above, will perform the UAE Olympic song. Ali Haider / EPA
Emirati entertainers Saoud Al Kaabi and Fayez Al Saeed, above, will perform the UAE Olympic song. Ali Haider / EPA

ABU DHABI // Amateur athletes from the seven emirates will come together to celebrate National Olympic Day on Thursday.

Nearly 500 sportsmen and women will compete for symbolic medals in one of seven events being staged across the country for the first time.

The day will be capped with a 4pm ceremony at the Corniche where the gold medallist from each emirate will carry an Olympic torch to light the cauldron.

Emirati entertainers Saoud Al Kaabi and Fayez Al Saeed will perform the UAE Olympic song they wrote as ambassadors for the National Olympic Committee.

Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the committee’s president, will take part in the ceremonial lighting of the Olympic flame.

“Our president will place the eighth torch, which represents the bringing together of the National Olympic Committee with all of the seven emirates,” said Shaima Al Zarooni, an executive board member of the committee.

“It’s actually quite symbolic and really an important day for lifting the Olympic mood in the UAE. It’s something that is a platform to grow the event and to build more into the community in the next few years.”

The UAE made Olympic history 10 years ago in Athens, when Sheikh Ahmed bin Hashar Al Maktoum won the UAE’s first and so far only gold medal in the men’s double trap-shooting event.

Ms Al Zarooni said she hoped the UAE’s Olympic achievements would improve with time.

“As we grow this over the next number of years, then the participation and the number of people that will be involved and the different types of demographics within the community will also grow,” she said.

“This being the first one, it’s obviously a very important day for us. We need to get a little bit of an Olympic spirit going here.”

Athletes competing in the seven events across the UAE were selected from national sports organisations and federations.

“This is not the top level of competition. It’s more symbolic than it is going to be technically competitive, at this stage, for this first one,” said Ms Al Zarooni.

“It’s to raise awareness for the Olympics in the UAE. It’s a globally recognised event under the IOC, so every country will host an Olympic Day.”

The competitions will be held simultaneously across the country from 10am to 3pm, with Abu Dhabi hosting a jiu-jitsu tournament at Zayed Sports City.

In Dubai, para-athletes will compete at the Dubai Club; Sharjah will host a shooting competition, Ajman will stage a rugby tournament at the Ajman Academy; Umm Al Quwain will host athletics; and rowers will race in Fujairah.

Fahad Ali Al Shamsi, chief executive of the UAE Jiu-Jitsu Federation, thanked the committee for including jiu-jitsu for the celebration.

The sport is yet to be recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

“Everyone knows that there is a big growth happening in jiu-jitsu,” he said, noting that the UAE won nine medals at the recent Asian Beach Games.

“Olympic Day is really good to motivate the athletes, to involve the sports, to be part of medals, of achievement, good achievement for the country.

“They try to just encourage and motivate the sportspeople to be part of a good result for the country.”

The National Olympic Day celebration is being held under the directive and patronage of Sheikh Ahmed.

For more information about National Olympic Day, visit www.uaenoc.net.

rpennington@thenational.ae

Published: December 16, 2014 04:00 AM

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