The chants of “allez! allez!” clashed with the buzzing vuvuzelas as fans waved national flags in the air as a show of patriotism as fiercely competitive as the WorldSkills Abu Dhabi challenge itself.
A sea of orange filled the du Arena stands in Abu Dhabi where the Dutch fans sat waving their Fanta orange foam noodles. The Korean team appeared in smart dark blue blazers over crisp white shirts and ties with a matching white hat – a look designed by the team’s fashion technology expert, Young Park.
The 500-strong French fans dressed in blue T-shirts and fervently waved their flags and chanted in honour of the WorldSkills France president, “Allez, Allez pour Michel” – “Go, go for Michel.”
“We are a big family, it’s very important for us to have all of our supporters with us,” said Isabelle LeJeune, spokeswoman for WorldSkills France. “We organised a supporter trip to come to the competition site to cheer on our competitors.”
The crowd’s patriotism in the audience was matched on stage when a choir of about 100 children accompanied a 60-piece orchestra to sing the UAE national anthem. The performance ended with loud cheers and applause from the audience.
A dance featuring an aerial performer told the story of how skills and traditional trades like fishing, rope making and pearl diving laid the foundation for the country’s early development. Dancers in reflective safety vests and hard hats mimed the jobs of the present and the future to an industrial soundtrack. “We don’t wait for the future, we make the future,” a woman’s voice boomed over the speakers.
Australia was the first team to enter the arena, its competitors dressed in khaki pants and skirts and dark blazers. The Kingdom of Bahrain received an especially warm reception from the audience as their competitors paraded in white kanduras while the young women wore red and gold traditional dresses. The Chinese fans jumped to their feet waving their flags and cheering their teammates as they paraded dressed in bright yellow blazers and white pants while waving small red flags.
Aisha Al Yassi, a 17-year-old Emirati from Sharjah, said she took pride in seeing the UAE welcome the foreign visitors en masse.
WorldSkills is the Olympic Games of vocational skills, with four days of competition at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and the medal ceremonies on October 19.