x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emiratis will be the 'face of F1 race'

At least 600 Emirati volunteers will become the face of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, doing everything from greeting VIPs to helping park cars.

ABU DHABI // At least 600 Emirati volunteers will become the face of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, doing everything from greeting VIPs at the airport to helping people park their cars at the Yas Marina Circuit. A campaign to recruit local helpers for one of the largest sporting events in the country is being run as a joint effort between Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management (ADMM) and Takatof, the volunteer organisation of the Emirates Foundation.

"This allows us to show the hospitality which is the norm in this part of the world," said Richard Cregan, the chief executive of Yas Marina Circuit and ADMM. "We can show this to the people of the world." The race on November 1, the final event of the 2009 Formula One season, is expected to attract almost 60,000 fans to Abu Dhabi. Takatof officials said about 300 Emiratis had offered their services, even before the start of a publicity campaign to attract volunteers. The organisation said it was confident it would find 600 volunteers, and if enough people were willing, there could be as many as 900.

"We have to be the face of the race," said Eisa al Ali, an engineer who has already volunteered. "From the moment we receive the VIP guests, they won't have much time and they will want to meet locals. They want to see the original people here." Mr al Ali, 27, will supervise about four team leaders who will each oversee a volunteer group. The volunteers will be unpaid, but will receive meal vouchers. In addition to greeting VIPs and helping with parking, their duties will include first aid, shuttle bus operations and helping fans find their seats.

Osama Fadhel, 26, another Emirati volunteer, said he was eager to be involved in "a unique event". "It's one of the largest events in the world, not just the region," he said. "It's a chance for us to learn from this event and build a long-term UAE team." An additional 30 to 35 Emiratis have volunteered to serve as race marshals, including some engineering students at the Higher Colleges of Technology who will help scrutinise the cars to ensure they conform to regulations.

The Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE is supplying about 250 locally based marshals, and another 350 will be brought in from the UK and elsewhere in Europe. "There will be a transfer of knowledge from these 350 people," said Ronan Morgan, the club's sports project director. "These people are very, very experienced and they have done many grands prix." Some UAE-based marshals are experienced, too, while others are new. An intensive training programme will start in early October. "These people ? will gain a huge amount of knowledge," Mr Morgan said. "But the most important thing is that they will gain enjoyment. Everybody should leave at the end of Sunday saying, 'What a fantastic experience.'"

dbardsley@thenational.ae