ABU DHABI // Eyebrows were raised at yesterday's media conference to launch this year's Laureus World Sports Awards when the principal host suggested that an Emirati might one day succeed luminaries like Roger Federer and Usain Bolt as recipient of this coveted honour. "Why not?" said Mohammed Ibrahim al Mahmood, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, when pressed to justify such optimism.
"We're hoping that one day one of our sportsmen or sportswomen will win an award," said Mahmood. "That won't come without accepting challenges and without experience. But we are working hard to improve our young people, to open doors for them to practise sports and to win medals. "We want to see more goals achieved in the sporting arena, especially for the development of youth and women, and this is something we are actively pursuing. We have put in place the infrastructure and provided the necessary support to help encourage more aspiring athletes to go all the way. Laureus can help in that pursuit."
Mahmood, who has been instrumental in bringing Formula One, the Fifa Club World Cup and European Tour golf to the capital, insisted his dream is not fanciful. "We already have prominent champions in different types of sport," he said. "We are encouraging those personalities to prepare in the right way for participation at the highest level and achieve the level of results which one day might make them a candidate for an award like this."
He added: "We are glad to be able to host this very important function. We have already hosted a lot of important events. Staging such events gives us the motivation to go forward and work harder. We would like to achieve more goals in the field of sport." Mahmood was given strong support at the welcome ceremony by Nawal El Moutawakel, who became the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic gold medal when she won the 400 metres hurdles at the 1984 Games in Los Angeles.
"The difference between when I competed and now is like day and night regarding the participation Muslim women in the arena of international sports," she said. firstname.lastname@example.org