ABU DHABI: At a time when holding international events has become virtually impossible following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, Yas Island in Abu Dhabi has emerged as an example of how which a safe environment could be provided for the return of major sporting events. competitions.
First there were three UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) Fight Island events in 2020 and earlier this year, then the Abu Dhabi World Professional Jiu-Jitsu Championship (ADWPJJC) was held in April.
Next up for the capital of the United Arab Emirates is the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m), which will take place from December 16-21.
The new Etihad Arena’s fight mats will be replaced by a retractable pool with an adjoining warm-up pool as the world’s best short course swimmers head to town for a competition originally scheduled for last year.
“We expect over 160 countries to be represented and registration has already been opened by the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), led by (General Secretary) Aref Al-Awani,” the director said. of the ADSC event, Abdulla Al-Wheibi, to Arab News.
“It is important to note that we are in daily contact with government agencies to ensure security measures, this is a new aspect for us.
“Security measures are updated from time to time. Whether it’s health and safety information about vaccines or PCR (polymerase chain reaction testing), we make sure it’s taken into account. Also, all updates regarding accommodation and transportation,” he said.
The success of previous competitions has encouraged the ADSC and its partner organizations to expand the program of events. Above all, thanks to the strict security measures, Abu Dhabi has become a destination where athletes feel comfortable traveling.
“Without a doubt, Abu Dhabi is one of the most popular cities to host tournaments. He has managed in the past to organize big tournaments.
“What has helped is the exceptional logistics that we have here, the facilities, the hosting capacities, all of those things have helped to run the previous tournaments successfully and hopefully the next ones as well,” said added Al-Wheibi.
The organization and facilities for the competition recently received the stamp of approval from Taha Al-Kishri, Director of the Asian Swimming Federation, FINA Executive Council Member and President of the Arabian and Oman Swimming Association.
“His feedback was very positive and he was confident that Abu Dhabi would put on a world-class event,” Al-Wheibi said, adding that in terms of the number and quality of swimmers, the competition could rival the standards of international swimmers. Olympic Games.
“The total number present if you include participants, teams and organizers will be over 2,000. In terms of quality, it will be the highest ranked tournament in the world.
“It takes place every four years, like the Olympic Games. The next will take place in Kazan (Russia) in 2025. In terms of number and quality of athletes, it is of the same caliber as the Olympics. Swimmers are preparing this season to compete in two competitions, the Olympics and then this one,” he added.
Al-Wheibi stressed that the participation of the world’s best athletes in the event would help to further raise the profile of swimming in the United Arab Emirates, and he hoped it would encourage more Emiratis to take up the sport.
“We are working on several development programs, including one for the UAE national team which for the past two years has been overseen by an Australian technical director. This program is not just during tournaments but ongoing, as our goal is to produce a talented group over the next few years.
“Swimming in particular requires long-term planning if you want to produce world champions. The Abu Dhabi Sports Council will continue to strongly support these swimmers,” he said.
Other initiatives will involve schools and academies as the ADSC seeks to build community ahead of the competition, which will also see the three-day FINA World Swimming Convention taking place on the sidelines.
“It will bring together international entities that will present products related to swimming. There will also be clinics and workshops, and topics of the latest training methods will be discussed, and doping will be discussed. It will be a sports festival,” he added.
The centerpiece of the event will be the Etihad Arena on Yas Island, which launched with UFC Fight Island 3 in January.
Al-Wheibi said, “It’s a wonderful arena with world-class specifications. It is one of the most beautiful places to organize this tournament. Having the Etihad Arena has helped enormously in organizing sporting events as it has the capacity to hold any event under ideal circumstances.
“The facilities it has such as seats, offices, VIP sections, entrances, athlete facilities, media centers and the compound make it complete.
“Add to that its location on Yas Island, a beautiful island with first class hotels and facilities. We recently inspected the new Hilton Yas hotel adjacent to the arena. It has over 500 rooms and will act as the official tournament headquarters. Then there is the W Hotel, Crown Plaza and others that will be used by athletes and technical staff,” he added.
According to Al-Wheibi, having all these facilities nearby would make it easier to host competitions by reducing the need for transportation, similar to an Olympic Village.
While UFC Fight Island allowed a maximum of 2,000 fans at Etihad Arena in January, it has yet to be decided whether the FINA World Swimming Championships (25m) will have a live audience. Either way, fans will have the opportunity to witness the action.
“As it stands, there is no final decision on fan attendance, but if live audiences were to be allowed, it would be at 30% of full capacity, in line with security restrictions.
“We also have to take into account those coming from abroad, it will be limited and an announcement will be made before the tournament. We will use our sports TV channels to provide live coverage of the tournament,” Al-Wheibi said.