Emphasis is on fun at UAE National Sports Day

National Sports Day offers sociable exercise, rather than competition.

Train Yas evenings are a popular and healthy step towards encouraging less sedentary lifestyles. Delores Johnson / The National
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DUBAI // Organisers of the upcoming UAE National Sports Day hope the absence of serious competition and an emphasis on fun will encourage more people to ditch their inhibitions and take part.

Ibrahim Abdulmalek, secretary general of the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare, said Wednesday’s activities, which will include events across the country, was about creating “a healthy society” more than promoting the serious, and sometimes intimidating, side of sport with events for children, adults and people with special needs.

“We are facing two main health problems here,” he said. “One is high diabetes levels and the other is obesity. This is because of a culture of non-exercise, of just eating and sitting, which is what we’re trying all the time to change, this culture. Sport can prevent these diseases.”

He said he hoped more than 5,000 people would take part in the day’s events, which include volleyball, running and football.

“We want society to see these things as social more than competition and spread the message of being active and having fun.”

Jamie Cunningham, founder of Professional Sports Group in Abu Dhabi, said the non-competitive element was important.

“We insisted there be no competition in our events because it’s about participation and giving things a go, realising that once you’ve done it, it’s great,” he said. “It’s about being the best you can be and ultimately it’s about the long term.”

He said creating a “culture of activity” was far more important than encouraging a sense of competition for just one day.

“We want people to continue this journey after the day’s events. It’s about the other 364 days a year.”

Zayed Sports City will host 20 events over the course of the day, many aimed at family participation, everything from football to tennis, an indoor cycling marathon and workout classes.

Mr Cunningham said it would also be an opportunity for the community to discover the range of sports and healthy activities on offer in the capital, something that has increased massively since he first moved to the emirate in 2006.

“Abu Dhabi has been incredibly innovative with Train Yas [the weekly run and cycle event at Yas Marina circuit] as an initiative with the Emirati leadership and general population taking part,” he said. “There has been a shift in people realising the social benefits of sport.”

The countrywide day of activities will have events laid on by the likes of Dubai and Abu Dhabi’s Sports Councils, Abu Dhabi’s Education Council (Adec) and other local authorities.

Mr Abdulmalek said it was important that all seven emirates took part.

“Only Sharjah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi have sports councils so we are in charge of events in the other emirates [Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah] which have their own activities,” he said.

Christian Baillargeon-Cote, 29, a teacher in the capital, said the day would be a good opportunity for people from all walks of life to get out and exercise.

“You just have to look at the events calendar and there are 10 to 20 things on a month,” the Canadian expatriate said.

“There’s an effort to encourage larger participation,” he said. “Not just for competitive purposes but to promote healthier habits, from fun runs to health days like this.”

For a full schedule of events, visit uaesportsday.ae.