The UAE are one year into a 10-year plan to produce Olympic-class athletes for the 2024 Summer Games. Paul Radley reports.
Emirates complete first year of 10-year plan to unearth potential Olympians
Leading administrators for Emirati sport hope to unearth potential Olympians for as far ahead as the 2024 Summer Games via the first targeted programme for Olympic sports in schools in this country.
Nearly 1,000 children from 10 areas of the UAE will take part when the UAE School Olympic Finals reaches its conclusion in Abu Dhabi this weekend.
The event marks the conclusion of the first year of a 10-year plan to foster young talent in six Olympic sports - gymnastics, athletics, swimming, fencing, shooting and archery.
The programme, a four-way initiative between the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, General Authority of Youth and Sports Welfare and the UAE National Olympic Committee, seeks to give talented children from government schools sporting options than football.
The leading participants in the finals events that are taking place at the Al Forsan International Sports complex and the Police Officers Club will be offered specialist training from November.
"After this we will put the leading students into a training centre," said Hassan Lootah, an executive board member for school sport at the Ministry of Education.
"We are planning for the long term and we are not going to stop because we want to create special players in these sports from each of these areas."
He said the goal is to prepare children for the 2024 Olympics, and that children as young as seven and as old as 14 will be eligible for additional training at government expense.
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