DUBAI // More than 25,000 people have signed up for the chance to win gold by losing weight – almost three times the number who entered last year’s competition.
Organisers of the Dubai Municipality initiative say they have been overwhelmed with the response from the public, who can this year enter with their families.
"We expected more people to join this year but so far more than 25,000 people have signed up online, compared with last year's 9,000," said Walid Al Shaibani, head of the Municipality Club and coordinator of the Your Child in Gold campaign.
“As of Wednesday about 15,000 of the 25,000 signed up had weighed in. We expected at least 5,000 to show up the following day, so we planned to keep the registration centres open until 1am.”
More than 450 families had signed up to the competition by Wednesday, said Mr Al Shaibani.
“We decided to remove the four family member limit and allow larger family groups to register together,” he said.
“Many children are very overweight here. We didn’t expect to see this much, which highlights the importance of this campaign.
“One 13-year-old child weighed in at 100kg. The youngest participant was a two-year-old from the Philippines who weighed 13kg.”
Mr Al Shaibani said the initiative was part of Dubai’s aim to be one of the healthiest cities in the world.
“To achieve this big goal we need to change our lifestyle and food habits and be more physically active to reduce the risk of diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and heart disease.
The campaign has a number of events planned for after Eid Al Fitr, with the municipality keeping in touch with those taking part to help maintain their motivation to lose weight during the holidays.
“Emails and messages will be sent to all the participants informing about all the scheduled activities and how to use the activities form provided to them when they registered online,” said Mr Al Shaibani.
“We will have sports days at a number of public parks, so it will be convenient for all that want to participate.”
Sofia Kagera, 41, signed up with her son George, 7, after gaining 10kg in three years.
“This is an amazing initiative that really makes you look at your health and your lifestyle,” Ms Kagera said. “Laziness is a major factor, along with lifestyle changes and not caring about what we’re eating.”
A nutritionist at the registration centre told her that her son needed to drop 7kg to reach his ideal weight.
“We have already signed up for a gym membership and hope that we can keep going,” Ms Kagera said. “George loves to swim so that is something we plan on doing quite a lot of.”
She said that they also hoped to take part in the municipality sports days.
“Once the weather improves we want to take advantage of the facilities at Khawaneej park, which is very nice. They have exercise equipment there for kids.”
Ms Kagera said her older son, Elvis, also signed up. “I was shocked at his weight. I hope he will join the gym with us or maybe start cycling again.”
Elvis, 21, was just as surprised to tip the scales at just over 118kg.
“I really didn’t expect it,” he said. “My ideal weight should be around 95kg.”
Elvis has already started dieting and aims to lose 8kg during the campaign. He also starts training next week with the Dubai Barracudas, who play in the new Emirates American Football League,