Athletics spaces coming to Abu Dhabi's Corniche

Officials hope added amenities, including recreational facilities and eatries, will make beach attractive to people of all backgrounds.

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - July 2, 2009: A man walks on the Abu Dhabi corniche in the late afternoon. 
( Ryan Carter / The National )

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ABU DHABI // The Corniche Beach, completed just a year ago, will be renovated with spaces for football and volleyball, officials said. The beach on the Corniche cost Dh105 million (US$28.5m) to develop and has become one of the most popular destinations in the city and served as the site of the Womad music festival in April.

The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) now says it wants to make the Corniche Beach a more interactive space, so it can host more sporting and cultural events, more restaurants and modestly upgraded facilities. Mustafa Hussein, 17, said he enjoyed playing sports at the beach. "You can swim and play football," he said. "To keep it a good, safe place, they should keep it clean, and to make it better, they should put in more shops."

Boardwalks, cycle paths, football pitches, volleyball courts and skateboarding facilities are among the family oriented amenities being added. The UPC plan was announced on Wednesday, and the first phase will be completed by October. Less than a day after the announcement, workers began partitioning off part of one of the plazas, where temporary shade structures will be installed. A UPC spokesman described the beach as a "landmark space" for Abu Dhabi, and added that the design was part of a citywide strategy to increase access to activities that appeal to a wide range of ages and interests.

The importance of beaches along the Corniche was highlighted in Plan Abu Dhabi 2030, which is intended to provide a framework for creating a liveable, sustainable city for three million residents. The original Abu Dhabi city plan had envisaged a city of 600,000 - a number already exceeded when the 2030 plan was released in 2007. When the new plan was being developed, Lulu Island and the Corniche were seen as places of urban parkland, set between open water and the central business district stretching from Al Mina across to the Marina.