Abu Dhabi: More than 800 athletes from 30 countries will descend on the UAE capital this weekend as they prepare to contest the inaugural $250,000 (Dh917,980) Abu Dhabi International Triathlon (ADIT) — the emirate's latest world-class sporting endeavour taking place tomorrow.

Since its launch in November 2009, regional and international interest in the event — which boasts a unique racing format to allow for quicker athlete recovery time — has continued to swell with ADIT attracting athletes from the four corners of the globe, from the USA, UK and Finland in the West to Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand in the East.

More than 75 of the world's leading elites have signed up for the debut ADIT, making it one of the strongest expected line-ups of any major triathlon in 2010. Leading the charge will be Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon — the crack endurance squad backed by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA).

And more promising for the event's organiser (ADTA), Middle East and North African (Mena) participation makes up nearly half of all competitors — a clear indication of the Arab world's growing interest in performance athletics events.

Calendar highlight

To date, the ADIT has attracted more than 340 regionally-based athletes from Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"When we first launched ADIT, we said that we aimed to make this event a calendar highlight on the global triathlon circuit. I firmly believe that we have achieved that goal and have set the foundations to grow the emirate's burgeoning credentials as a major performance events destination," said Faisal Al Shaikh, the head of the Major Events Division, ADTA.

"This event will set the benchmark for triathlon. With its unique competition distances, world-class field and carefully designed city route, we are extremely confident ADIT will earn ‘instant classic' status by Saturday [tomorrow] evening.

"In addition, it will be an important platform for aspiring sportsmen and women of all ages to participate shoulder-to-shoulder with the world's top triathletes, something we hope will continue to inspire more uptake of the sport.

"We also believe it will go a long way in demonstrating the emirate's pedigree as a preferred, safe winter training base, which can be enjoyed by both athletes and their families."

Faris Al Sultan, captain of the seven-strong Team Abu Dhabi Triathlon and 2005 Ironman World Champion, believes the solid competitor line-up and the truly international amateur field, speaks volumes about the event's and the destination's global appeal.

"The ADIT will play a major role in developing the sport in the Middle East and will go a long way to encouraging more participation in triathlon at a grass roots level ... we expect to see interest in both triathlon and the emirate as a leading winter training base, growing considerably," said Al Sultan.