Wadi Adventure Race

Events in Dubai: Beyond shopping and brunches – the growth of a sports community

A fantastic event at Wadi Adventure last weekend has unofficially marked the end of the sports season in the UAE. A few races remain scattered throughout the last few weeks of April, for those brave (or crazy) enough to taken on the additional challenge of the desert sun (or the mountains in the case if the Urban Ultra Wadi Racer), but for most the time has come to loosen off the training a little, or even hang up the running shoes all together for the summer.

Over the last few years it has been encouraging to see the sports scene develop in the UAE and across the region, commitments from Dubai Sports Council as part of Strategy 2015 have seen a focus on empowering the sports sector to assist in spreading a sports culture across the city. The  strategic priorities for community development focus on sports awareness, access of facilities and local events organisation, and as a keen participant of sporting events in Dubai, it has been encouraging to see this being rolled out.

Education and awareness of sports, and adoption of a sports culture is clearly being rolled out across the media and through educational establishments, and with training facilities being incorporated into new developments, such as Barsha Park, Palm Jumeirah and the most recently completed community project at The Beach, JBR, sports awareness and accessibility is definitely increasing in the community.

The number of events has also grown, not only in number but in quality, and with websites such as Premier Online making the information readily available, it has become much easier for people to sign up and spread the word – as has been shown by the increasing numbers of participants at Dubai-based sports events.

Every year, the Dubai Marathon goes from strength to strength, becoming increasingly recognised internationally, whilst at the same time, events such as the Dubai Creek Striders Half Marathon and Wadi Bih Relay Run have seen a major increase in the number of runners taking part, and of varying abilities. It is no longer just the elite runners looking to take part in community events, the recent Wadi Adventure Race (a tough 10k challenge with numerous obstacles around Wadi Adventure in Al Ain) had to increase the number of categories available in order to accommodate the demand, from all fitness levels, allowing a wider cross section of the community to join in the fun.

The fantastic organisation of these events, and the community and team spirit they foster becomes addictive to those taking part, and in this way these events all support each other in terms of promotion through word of mouth. I am a walking (or running) example, as detailed in a recent Travel & Sports post.

None of these events would be possible without the support of corporate sponsors however, and the influx of new sporting events is testament to the increasing popularity of sports within the emirates. Smart marketing managers within organisations such as Standard Chartered (sponsors of Dubai Marathon) and Johnson Arabia (sponsors of the Dubai Creek Half Marathon) have long seen this potential, and other organisations are keen to follow suit with the likes of Emirates NBD sponsoring the relatively new Saucony Half Marathon at Emirates Hills, and Daman doing a fantastic job of sponsoring The Color Run (Dubai and Abu Dhabi) alongside other community sports events as part of their Active Life wellness campaign.

This increasing recognition and commitment from Dubai government, the media and large corporations, together with the sports clubs and communities that operate in Dubai, bodes well both for the sports community in Dubai and for the economy with the growth of sports tourism. And whilst as participants, we welcome a little respite, we’ll be sure to keep the training in check ready for an even stronger season this winter.