ABU DHABI // More than 350 female athletes from across the Gulf region will arrive in the UAE capital next week to compete in the triennial GCC Women's Sport Games.
The six-day championships, which is scheduled to start on Monday, will see participants from Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE compete in athletics, bowling, equestrian, shooting, taekwondo, volleyball and athletics for special needs competitors across six separate Abu Dhabi venues.
The inaugural event was held in Kuwait in 2008 and Talal al Hashimi, the vice chairman of the UAE local organising committee, explained the objective of next week's Games is to help young women athletes from the Gulf gain international experience with the ultimate goal being to later represent their country at the Olympic Games next summer in London.
"This event will provide an early test for many of the women," al Hashimi said. "We hope they will experience what it feels like to compete and it will push them to take part in further competitions internationally.
"It is great preparation for them; to sample the atmosphere, the life of a sportsperson - everything is being done to an Olympic standard."
Al Hashimi said that with access to the Games open to the public, he expects strong crowds to come out and watch the UAE's Gulf Cup-winning volleyball team as well as the country's taekwondo and equestrian participants.
Sheikha Maitha bint Mohammed bin Rashid, who became the first Gulf woman to carry her country's flag at the Olympic Games in Beijing, will compete in next week's taekwondo event.
"It is important for this country to have women role models to look up to and we are co-ordinating with the Abu Dhabi Education Council to have some girls' schools attend the taekwondo, volleyball and athletics to show their support for the UAE," al Hashimi said.
"These championships will also allow us to show the people outside the country our culture, the level of women's sport and the way women live in this region."
The shooting contest will be held at Al Forsan Resort, while Al Jazira Hall will host the volleyball tournament.
Taekwondo will take place at the UAE Wrestling and Judo Federation headquarters and the two athletics competitions will be held at the Centre of Military Physical Education.
Khalifa Bowling Centre will hold the bowling contest, while the equestrian event will be held at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club and Emirates Global Village in Al Wathba.