x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Youth games rehearsal for Olympics bid

The Youth Olympics and Asia Games are both being considered as ways to show that the emirate is ready to host the 2024 games.

Fireworks at the opening ceremony of last year’s Youth Olympics in Singapore.
Fireworks at the opening ceremony of last year’s Youth Olympics in Singapore.

DUBAI //Sports officials are considering a bid to host the Youth Olympics as a way to prepare for their tilt at the 2024 Olympic Games.

The National Olympic Committee (Noc) says successfully hosting smaller sporting events in Dubai may influence judges considering the city's bid for 2024.

"It would be an opportunity to show how our country is well prepared and organised to host such an event," said Saeed Abdul Ghaffar, the secretary general of the Noc.

"It will be an added value for our bid and a credit to the country to do something like that. In addition, it would be like a rehearsal for the country before the summer Olympics, to see how we can manage."

The inaugural Youth Olympics took place last year in Singapore and the 2014 event will be hosted by Nanjing, China.

Mr Ghaffar said a decision to bid, and for what year, had not been finalised. A bid could also be made for a similar-sized event such as the Asian Games, or the much smaller School Olympics.

"We are still in negotiations among ourselves … about what we can host," he said.

The plan has already been welcomed by sports professionals.

"It's a good move and very wise to do that before the big event," said Tarek Souei, the technical manager of Al Ain Sports and Cultural Club.

"It's another bid and I know it's costly, but Dubai's able to do it. The Youth Olympics in Singapore were a big success. The infrastructure in Dubai is not so different from there.

"The most important thing in having a small event is to test the infrastructure, the equipment, the logistics and all the matters related to the event."

The results of a two-year feasibility study into the possibility of hosting the Olympic Games were announced at the end of July.

The study found that although 70 per cent of the infrastructure was in place, Dubai should not enter the race for the 2020 Olympics but aim for hosting rights in 2024.

In an announcement at the time, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said sport would be a focus for youth in the coming decade.

"The Arab region is known for its hospitality and I do not believe our region is placing sport as a priority in these turbulent times," Sheikh Hamdan said.

Mr Ghaffar said if the bid was successful, athletes would be trained rigorously to secure places for the country at the games.

"We have to invest in human resources to show people that Emiratis are capable of taking responsibility and leadership," he said.

"To take positions in these tournaments we need to train our people. We are considering sending them abroad to gain experience."

Qatar was the first Gulf state to submit a bid for the 2020 Olympics and is hoping to host the event in early autumn, when temperatures begin to fall. That was allowed when Sydney hosted the summer games in September and October 2000.

Mr Ghaffar said Dubai could look at hosting the Games outside of its normal dates. "We would consider moving it forward a bit but it would depend on how things could move," he said. "I don't think changing the dates would be an obstacle."

The International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said recently that he would be happy to see a Middle East country bid for the games.

"There is an interest in certain Middle Eastern countries for the games and we would welcome their bids," Mr Rogge said.

At the Asian Games last year in Guangzhou, China, about 600,000 volunteers helped. Mr Ghaffar said the same numbers for Dubai would be difficult and participation across the board would be essential.

"We cannot just depend on Emiratis to be volunteers; we're not enough," he said. "We have to involve expats, too. Whoever is in this country has to contribute."

Other cities possibly vying for the 2024 Games are Paris, Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Madrid and Kiev. But Mr Ghaffar said there was confidence in the UAE bid.

"We might be a small country but we're pretty ambitious," he said.

mcroucher@thenational.ae