Qatar - Let the Games begin!
Written by Claire Bloomfield
Over 6,000 participants are expected to compete in Arab Games Doha 2011 when one of the biggest multi-sport events in the Middle East’s sporting calendar arrives in a Gulf State for the first time.
There are 29 sports including two for athletes with disabilities, and 33 disciplines and Qatar has a promising array of talent in each, all of whom will be in the hunt for gold medal glory in Doha.
Proceedings begin on December 9, 2011, with the Arab Games’ opening ceremony, which will include the presidents of the national and international Olympic committees and president of the International Football Federation (FIFA), to celebrate Arab culture, heritage, and sporting talent.
The nation’s involvement at the Arab Games stems from the sixth Games held in Rabat, Morocco in 1985. Earlier this year Doha led an exhibition to offer supporters the chance to understand the development and history of the Arab Games.
Hosting world-class sporting events such as the Arab Games and, potentially, the Summer Olympics in 2020, not only develops Qatar’s sport and tourism sectors and offers the nation the chance to showcase its world-class facilities but, more importantly, it provides an opportunity to share its important values, such as equality between men and women in sports.
Qatar took home a total of 40 medals from the last Arab Games in 2007 – 14 gold medals, 13 silver, and 13 bronze. That same year, host nation Egypt earned a staggering 337 medals – of which 148 were gold – and received widespread praise for its organisation and technical management of the event.
The Qatar Association of Athletics Federation’s (QAAF) technical team consider the Arab Games to be one of the most important events in their sporting calendar, even more so with the event being held on home soil this year. Many of the athletes have adjusted their training and competitive schedules accordingly to ensure they have adequate rest, training, and preparation in time for this year’s competition.
Football, athletics, volleyball, sailing, shooting, handball, and fencing are just some of the sports involved; but this year, what are Qatar’s chances and who are the unique Qatari talents you should be looking out for?
After an incredible performance in September at the IAAF World Championships in Daegu, South Korea, Qatari high jumper Mutaz Barshim stunned his rivals and athletics fans alike with a jump of 2.32m in his maiden participation in the World Championships. Barsham will certainly be a favourite for a place on the podium.
In 2010 Nigerian-born sprinter Femi Seun Ogunode joined fellow sprinter Samuel Francis in a transfer to compete on behalf of Qatar. Since the move, Ogunode took gold in both the 200m and 400m at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, and set a national record in the 200m (20.36 seconds) in the Samsung Diamond League meet in May this year. As a result the youngster has quickly placed himself amongst the nation’s favourite runners along with Abubaker Ali Kamal (1,500m and 3,000m steeplechase) and Hamza Daryoush (400m), both of whom will go into the Arab Games on the back of medal-winning form.
Qatar’s gymnastic hopes lie with Nasser al-Hamad and Mahmoud Al-Saadi in the men’s category, and Aljazi al-Habshi in the women’s category; but this year young Shaden Wahdan has also emerged as one of the brightest young stars among artistic gymnastics. In March, only five months short of her 16th birthday, Wahdan competed in the Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha. She qualified for the finals and is now ranked at an impressive seventh position internationally.
From one breathtaking female talent to another: award-winning athlete Noor Hassan Al-Maliki took two gold medals and one silver in the GCC Women’s Championship, setting new national records in the 100m and 200m. She also helped the Qatari relay team to win a silver medal.
Qatar’s national basketball team lost their preliminary round fixtures in what proved to be a disappointing performance in the FIBA Asia Championship in China in September. But now with Matt Skillman in charge for the Arab Games in December, the team will be eager to put the events in China behind them. Skillman was formerly the head coach of the Qatar U18 National Team at the 21st FIBA Asia U18 Championship, so he is well aware of what the task in hand requires.
Ever since Qatar secured the honour to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, there has been a heightened sense of anticipation and excitement surrounding the Arab Games’ football fixtures that are to be held at the Al-Arabi, Al-Gharafa, Al-Saad, and Al-Rayyan stadiums. Qatar’s national team faces 2014 FIFA World Cup qualification ties at home against Indonesia and Bahrain, and this could potentially prove to be ideal preparation for the Arab Games.
Powerboat Racing – November 17–19
Hosted by the Qatar Marine Sports Federation and His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al-Thani, (who competes in the UIM Class One World Powerboat Championship) the H1 Unlimited season will end in Doha Bay for the third time in as many years.
The top ten boats that raced in the Air National Guard Championship in San Diego in September will head to Doha for the third annual Oryx Cup UIM World Championship. The usual ten-boat field will be joined in Doha by two Air National Guard Series racing boats – Webster Racing’s 22 GreatScott! and the Superior Racing U-25 Miss Freei – giving the event a 12-boat field for the first time.
In November 2010, H1 concluded a successful season with Dave Villwock winning the event in Doha in the U-96 Spirit of Qatar.
Oryx has selected three fabulous 5-star facilities for you to soothe those tired muscles whether you’re a record-breaking sprinter, a title-winning boxer, or simply attending this year’s Arab Games as a spectator.
Bliss® Spa, W Hotel, Doha
This award-winning property, perpetuating a concept founded in 1996 in New York, scooped no less than three Middle East Spa Awards in 2010, and it’s easy to see why. Hot milk and almond pedicures, triple oxygen treatments, and the new ‘peeling groovy’ facials should be at the top of your list. There are also some unique treatments available for men.
The Four Seasons, Doha
Temple-like tranquillity awaits you at the Spa and Wellness Centre, so why not awaken your senses in an entirely new way with an invigorating coffee-and-salt body treatment followed by a relaxing chocolate massage?
Essence Spa, Doha
This exclusive ladies-only spa is one of the newest additions to the relaxation facilities available in the city, and offers a range of body massage and facial therapies based on ancient healing methods, philosophies, and rituals from Bali, Thailand, and India.
Later this month (November 12–15) the Aspire Dome welcomes the International Sports Congress & Exhibition, Aspire 4 Sport for a second consecutive year. European football legends Carlo Ancelotti, Marcello Lippi, and Bora Milutinovic have already confirmed their attendance and will take part in first-class debates, interviews, and lectures.
Qatar is no stranger to hosting major world-sporting events. The Qatar Masters has been a regular feature on the PGA European Tour schedule since 1998 and plays host to many of the world’s top-ranked international golfers. The ATP Doha ExxonMobil Open and WTA Sony Ericsson Championships in January and November, respectively, are also regular stops on the professional men’s and women’s tennis tours. Qatar’s Cycling Tour (Tawaf) for Men & Women returns (February 1–10) along with theGlobal Champions Tour and Qatar International Show Jumping Championship (March 17–19).