Chinese players playing with playing local players at Safa Park in Ping Pong Dubai, a community initiative to grow game in Dubai. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Less than a year back, the UAE and China agreed to cooperate on 13 key sectors during the course of a sixth joint Economic Committee session in Beijing. While the two nations agreed to focus on prominent aspects such as trade, infrastructure, space, aviation, energy, health and education, there was an agreement in place to boost the growing sector of tourism by using international sporting events held in the UAE.

Even though sporting ties between the two nations have been modest over the years, it is only during recent times that the UAE reached out in a strong manner to the economic superpower through niche sporting disciplines such as horseracing and table tennis.

The Chengdu Dubai International Cup — held at the back of the Dubai World Cup — was set up a few years ago to strengthen ties between China and the UAE.

Meydan’s unique venture in Chengdu has been designed to spread the sport in China and set up a relationship, whereby Chinese horses can eventually raise their game and start participating at the iconic Meydan Racecourse, and possibly other centres in the UAE.

The experiment has since its inception shown a lot of success with the five-race card at Jinma Lake racecourse turning out to be a double winner for both partners — the sport witnessing a growth while further enhancing the already vibrant relations between the two countries.

Table tennis was another platform that served to bring the two countries together. After an initial one-year that coincided with the hosting of the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in 2013, China and the UAE signed an agreement that witnessed Dubai sponsoring the national table tennis squads from China. The agreement between the Chinese Table Tennis Association (CTTA) and the Government of Dubai, through the Dubai Sports Council (DSC), was renewed for a further three years — thus cementing yet another milestone in sporting cooperation.

It was decided that Dubai’s name would appear on the Chinese national team’s official tracksuits for the first time-ever. In addition, the logo would be printed on the team shirts, promotional material and signage on all apparel worn by the men, women’s and junior teams participating in domestic and international events.

The benefit of this initiative was huge with the sponsorship deal attracting television audiences in excess of 100 million viewers — while helping to raise awareness and understanding of Dubai across China and beyond. The sponsorship also saw the launch of a grassroots initiative, aptly called ‘Ping Pong Dubai,’ which saw table tennis boards springing up in public parks on designated days for common people to try their hand in the sport.