x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

First Abu Dhabi event made a big splash

Organisers delighted with the inaugural swimming festival in the capital and plan improvements.

A total of 718 swimmers of vastly differing ages and abilities competed in the races at the Corniche beach during the inaugural Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival at the weekend.
A total of 718 swimmers of vastly differing ages and abilities competed in the races at the Corniche beach during the inaugural Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival at the weekend.

ABU DHABI // The Abu Dhabi Swimming Festival could benefit from a few changes, organisers said, but they considered the inaugural event on Saturday an overall success.

A total of 718 swimmers of vastly differing ages and abilities competed in the races at the Corniche beach.

"You never know until you have done the first event how it is going to work," said Jamie Cunningham, the chief executive of the Professional Sports Group, who oversaw the festival.

"But I would say that all those involved have done a good job and there is no reason now why it should not become an annual fixture."

Cunningham said efforts would be made to make the key races - the Capital Mile and the Splash Dash - direct swims from start to finish and remove most of the buoys which marked Saturday's twisting courses.

"I think the competitors prefer to swim in a straight line in open water races, but we couldn't do it this year because of safety concerns," he said.

"Now that the Abu Dhabi Municipality have seen how it works, we might be able to persuade them to set up the courses differently. I hope so."

Cunningham, who said Dh25,000 had been raised to the benefit of Abu Dhabi Care Centre, also expressed a desire to increase the fund-raising side of the event. He encouraged entrants to seek more sponsorship to raise money for needy causes. He pointed out that the annual London Marathon raises about 10 times the total entrance fee for charity.

"It will take some time to get to that level but that's what we should be aiming for," he said.

Only one of the 718 swimmers failed to complete the course on Saturday. A middle-aged male swimmer was unable to continue because of what were diagnosed as back and liver problems and he had to be taken to hospital.

"We had him out of the water and into an ambulance inside three minutes," Cunningham said. "That is a tribute to the medical staff we had on site."

wjohnson@thenational.ae