Dubai: The UAE yesterday took its first step towards grooming world-class athletes with the launch of the ambitious School Olympics by Shaikh Ahmad Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President, UAE National Olympic Committee (UAE NOC).
“The success of this massive project will lie solely on those who are totally involved with it, be it at the government, the various sports associations and bodies and the students themselves,” Shaikh Ahmad noted in his opening remarks.
“All these bodies and people involved have a duty towards this project, and more importantly towards the youth who are the future of our country. Strive to make this happen,” he added as he launched the nation-wide project in the presence of nearly 1,000 teaching staff here yesterday.
The UAE School Olympics will involve all 288 UAE schools, who will participate at three different levels — school-level, district-level and finally UAE level.
Competitions will be held in six different disciplines with athletics, gymnastics and swimming being made mandatory, while shooting, archery and fencing will be non-obligatory.
An estimated 34,000 students from across the UAE will be involved in the UAE School Olympics when it hosts its first round of competitions in the four age categories starting with the Under-9 years till Under-15 years, on September 23.
There will be a simultaneous process of identifying talent during the course of the competitions with the special students entering the specially set up sports centres in each of the ten educational districts in the UAE.
Present on the occasion were Humaid Mohammad Obaid Al Qutami, Minister of Education; Abdul Rahman Mohammad Bin Nasser Al Owais, Minister of Culture, Youth and Community Development; Yousuf Al Sarkal, Vice-President, UAE NOC; Mohammad Al Kamali, Secretary General, UAE NOC; and Mohammad Al Mahmoud, Secretary General, Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
“This project has taken nearly four years to see the light of day,” Al Sarkal told Gulf News after the launch.
“A great amount of hard work has gone into this project keeping the future of the UAE in mind. We have changed so many things over a period of time so that we can adopt and adapt to sports disciplines that suit a country like ours from the school level,” he added.
With the UAE NOC at the apex body, the active partners for the project include the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health and the General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare (GAYSW). “The need is to ensure there is a like-mindedness in the implementation of the School Olympics at every stage,” noted Ebrahim Abdul Malek, Secretary General, GAYSW.
“Even though there are these nodal bodies who will overlook the project we will shortly be embarking on a drive to rope in the private sector to be a part of this as well,” he added.
What: UAE School Olympics
When: School-level competitions start in six sports (athletics, swimming, gymnastics, shooting, archery and fencing) on September 23. UAE Championships to be held on April 28-30, 2013.
How: Four age-level competitions (U-9, U-11, U-13 and U-15)
Future: Each educational district will have two sports centres for each of the six sports - that’s 120 sports centres across the UAE with a total intake of 3,800 athletes looked after by 320 coaches.