x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Dubai's summer of content when it comes to sports

Dubai Sports World has the full range of sports to be played indoors and keep everyone fit, finds Ahmed Rizvi.

For children and adults alike, the Sheikh Saeed Halls have something to offer as Middle East's largest indoor sports facility at the Dubai World Trade Centre.Razan Alzayani / The National
For children and adults alike, the Sheikh Saeed Halls have something to offer as Middle East's largest indoor sports facility at the Dubai World Trade Centre.Razan Alzayani / The National

Take your pick. Football, cricket, basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, table tennis, squash or rugby, whatever your fix, Dubai Sports World provides all of it under one giant roof.

Air-conditioned, of course.

The event, which will continue until August 21 at Dubai World Trade Centre's (DWTC) Sheikh Saeed Halls, is the perfect escape from the summer heat and the monotony of daily visits to the mall.

You can learn from some of the best coaches in the land or you can just roll up with your friends, rent one of those pitches, courts or tables, and have fun.

And for the more adventurous types - extreme sport enthusiasts - you can get your thrills on BMXs, roller blades or skateboards on Adventure HQ's challenging pump track, or Rage's skatepark.

There are tracks for the cyclists and joggers as well, and a gym if you fancy a workout. There is even a play area where the parents can leave their tiny tots and indulge in their favourite sports.

"Every age group is being looked after," said Issam Kazim, director of events and sponsorship at DWTC. "Initially we started with the usual sports and this has obviously evolved over the years. Now we are in the third year and we are trying to look at the whole aspect of it.

"Volleyball usually picks up a lot [during Ramadan], so we have provided volleyball courts.

"We have seen that there was always demand for football, but we didn't have pitches that might cater to seven-a-side, so we have added that as well. So now we have five-a-side and seven-a-side.

"We have cricket, again, because we know the demographics of Dubai shows there is a demand for cricket. Plus we have increased the number of badminton courts based on the demands of last year.

"We have also got rugby and Aussie Rules this year. We have added a cycling circuit to the skate park that was there last year and which proved to be highly successful. So we have really listened to the clients quite closely and we have tried to cater to their demands."

The event started on June 21 and as the schools break for their summer holidays the Sheikh Saeed Halls are expected to be buzzing with visitors of all ages and nationality. The facility will be open until 3am during Ramadan.

From July 2 to 6, legends from the world of football will take centrestage as they challenge for the Dubai Indoor Football Championship. The likes of Michel Salgado, Christian Karembeu, Patrick Kluivert, Gaizka Mendieta and Fernando Couto will don the colours of their former clubs once again as the "Masters" sides of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Roma and Porto face off.

"The football championship and the Ramadan majlis are big draws," Kazim said. "The Ramadan majlis is where you have a lot of Ramadan tournaments, where our partners from the government entities come for entertainment and use our facilities for their inter-department tournaments."

During these summer months outdoor sporting activities usually come to standstill. As numbers dwindle, academies are forced shut doors, but Dubai Sports World has given them an opportunity to stay active.

"It's indoor and it's air-conditioned ... that's the biggest thing," said Sergio Gaoni, a senior coach with Tennis360 academy, who are providing a fun variant of the sport called cardio tennis.

"People won't be playing tennis on outdoor courts. They will be doing things inside or they will leave for the summer. While here, they'll go and play tennis, or go for a run, or go to the gym. This facility caters for everyone, which is really good."

Active Sports Academy's Carole Worrall is equally excited about the coming months.

"It's such a multidisciplinary area with such great access. It right's in the middle of town and everybody knows the Trade Centre," she said. "People really want to be inside in the cool in the summer months and what better location to have for such a huge sporting event as this."

For Jim Reilly, the director of IFA Sport, who are running a football academy, the event provides an opportunity to not just teach young kids about the finer points of the game, but also about healthy living. And also their parents.

"What we are really trying to push and make people aware of is yet again the obesity problem within the UAE," he said. "It's rising. So as an academy, not only do we want to educate children on fitness and good nutrition, but actually educating their parents and getting them involved."

And growing obesity within the country was one of the reasons why the DWTC chiefs decided to open their doors for the event.

"We realised during our sessions with them [the health authorities] that child obesity is on the rise and it's not something we in Dubai want to be associated with," Kazim said.

"During the summer, historically, the halls are a bit emptier because it's usually the down season for the exhibitions globally. So we decided, instead of just keeping the halls empty, why not try to bring some activities indoor, kind of give something back to the community."


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