Dubai: The UAE’s Olympics focus is now firmly on Rio 2016 after UK Foreign Office Minister Alistair Burt officially passed the baton from London to the Brazilian ambassador in a ceremony here on Monday night.
After a successful summer of Olympics and Paralympics action, Burt travelled to the UAE to mark the handover to Rio de Janeiro with the UAE’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom Dominic Jermey, UAE Ambassador to Brazil Joao de Mendonca Lima Neto, and UAE National Olympic Committee Vice-President Yousuf Al Sarkal.
The British minister then took part in a ‘London to Rio’ football match with expats from both nations — plus a couple of local legends — at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The Brazilians won the game 1-0.
Burt told Neto: “I’m passing on this extraordinary opportunity we had to host the Olympics and Paralympics to Brazil with the absolute expectation that what will be produced in Rio in four years’ time will be as extraordinary as London has been.
“We have had an extraordinary time — I can tell you ambassador that you will find your people responding to the challenge in extraordinary ways, doing wonderful things for the people that come from all over the world.
“Each city that hosts the Olympics and Paralympics is of course unique. There’s no other place like London, but equally there’s no place like Rio — there’s no backdrop like Rio. And although we believe we’ve set the bar pretty high and we’re pleased that we have, equally we have a sense that bar is going to be met and what we will see in Rio in four years’ time is going to be wonderful.
“Please cherish the athletes, cherish the Paralympic athletes, cherish your visitors, your volunteers and cherish the unknown – the thing that you will do different that nobody is expecting that will make the signature of Rio very special.”
Al Sarkal, who is also president of the UAE Football Association, said he is looking forward to seeing more UAE Olympics and Paralympics success when the Games are held in Rio. Although the country’s football team impressed on their Olympic debut, the only medals won by Emiratis came in the Paralympics, with the team bringing home one gold, one silver and one bronze.
“I was in London and when you [Burt] say you raised the bar high, I know what you mean. The organisation went very well — the event was organised in a perfect way. London did a great job, so good luck to Brazil. Brazil is always known for organising sports so I’m sure they will also be very successful,” Al Sarkal said.
“We were really glad to be in London and we look forward to even better results in Brazil.”
Brazilian ambassador Neto said: “What London accomplished hosting the 2012 Olympics have been recognised by every sport-loving person. In 2016, we will have the opportunity to do the same in Rio, my hometown, and be able to show the world a little of our culture and, above all, of the Brazilian spirit.”