Weight-loss champions in Dubai cash in with 16.9kg in gold

At current market rates, that amount of gold would equal about Dh2.6 million.

Hussain Lootah, director general of Dubai Municipality, presents Syrian Ahmed Al Shiekh, 27, with an award for being the winner of the Your Weight in Gold campaign by losing 26kg, dropping from 146kg to a final weight of 120kg.  Sarah Dea / The National
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DUBAI // More than 3,000 dieters who shed almost 17,000 kilograms between them during a six-week weight-loss campaign have been rewarded with gold coins.

The successful Your Weight in Gold initiative, run by Dubai Municipality, attracted worldwide attention by offering at least a gram of gold for every kilogram lost.

And entrants happily cashed in at Thursday’s prize-giving ceremony.

As many as 10,000 people signed up on July 19 but only 3,224 made it to the end on August 20.

“The purpose of the campaign is to change their lifestyles, to reduce their weight and help them to control themselves with food,” said Waleed Al Shaibani, Dubai Municipality club manager.

Those who lost between 1kg and 5kg received one gram of gold for every kilo lost. For every kilo over 5kg, 2g of gold were awarded.

For every kilogram over 10kg, the reward rose to 3g of gold.

Dubai Municipality said 16.872kg of gold would be paid out to the weight-loss champions.

That would probably cost the authority Dh2.629 million, at current market rates. The cost of a gram of 24-carat gold was Dh155.87 in Dubai on Thursday.

Omar Ahmed Al Marri, a public-relations executive from the municipality, said the gold was a key motivator in getting people to participate.

“Nobody tries to be healthy,” he said. “So we thought about how we could make them think about it. We found that you have to give them a gift, to motivate them.

“Most of the people, they first of all thought about the gold. And then afterwards, they thought about what they could do for their body.”

Twenty-nine people lost more than 15kg. Five lost more than 20kg and one person lost more than 26kg.

Mr Al Shaibani said it did not matter what motivated entrants, the point was getting people to get fit.

“It doesn’t matter why they participated,” he said. “The most important reason is that they participated at all.

“They started to do something to change their lifestyle, and their weight. The gold is very important for them, but for us, the important thing is that they started to change their lives.”

Michael Pickup, from the UK, said he and his daughter had taken part and it had changed the lifestyle of the whole family.

“Now everyone is exercising and not overeating, it’s had a long-term effect on all of us,” he said.

Mr Pickup, who lost 8.5kg, said having the deadline to weigh in was a big motivating factor.

“I had the added motivation of my wife pushing me to go out there and bring the gold home,” he said.

Suhail Saheed, from India, has joined a gym after shedding 5kg on the programme.

“Now, I’ve lost weight, I want to continue working on it, and trying to add muscle now,” he said. “It’s been helpful to set a goal and have the deadline.”

Muiz Ruffae, from Sudan, said he had not continued the effort.

“I lost 5kg by running around Barsha park,” he said. “I haven’t done much after I finished.”

Mr Al Shaibani said that owing to the success of the campaign, it would undoubtedly happen again.

“I think we will do it again, this will be a yearly thing,” he said.

But he said the prize next year was unlikely to be gold.

“It will be similar, but not the same thing,” he said. “Probably something bigger than gold.”

He would not be drawn on what exactly it was.

“Nobody knows,” he said. “This is Dubai.”