x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

More competition is the priority for improvement in athletics

Multinational event proves facilities can help students.

Dubai // Schools were happy to collect prizes totalling Dh360,000 in the inaugural Commercial Bank of Dubai Youth Athletics Championships, but instructors said money was not their main motivation.

The event was launched by the Dubai Sports Council with an investment of Dh1 million from the bank. More than a third of those funds went to the winning schools.

"I don't think it is really about the money," said Andreas Bertram, a physical education instructor at The German International School, which carried off the biggest prize cheque of Dh90,000.

"The most important thing is organising such events. We need more and more athletic events, maybe every second or third week."

Competitions at the Dubai Police Stadium were held in three categories for boys - Under-12, Under-15 and Under-17 - and one for girls. Schools topping each category received Dh40,000, while the runners-up and third-placed team got Dh30,000 and Dh20,000, respectively.

The German School won the girls division, and finished second in the boys' Under-15 and third in the boys' Under-12.

"Dubai is a multicultural city, an international melting pot, which you don't have in Germany. So it is very easy to get everybody involved, just on the weekends," Bertram said.

"It's amazing and they should do more such events open to schools of all nationalities. That's what happens at the Olympics and World Cups. It's a good feeling to see how children of other nationalities are doing."

Bertram has been impressed with the sports facilities in the country, but feels they are not being utilised properly through regular competition.

"The idea is really good because such events are necessary," he said. "Dubai has a lot of sports facilities, but they don't really use them. So this is a good start and hopefully they will continue in this way with more schools.

"Maybe they should hold this event two or even three times a year so that the students can continue to train."

Richard Vivian, a PE teacher at Jumeirah College, said facilities in the city could compensate for a lack of resources at many schools.

"The biggest struggle is every school has a pool, whereas not every school has an athletics track or the options to compete in a facility," he said. "It's tough.

"We are fortunate we are having our sports day at the Al Wasl Club. The Dubai Sports Council has been brilliant and is helping us set that up. Without that goodwill, we wouldn't be having that."