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Thu 9 Aug 2012 11:59 AM

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Level of UAE sport "embarrassing" - gold medal winner

Olympic shooter HH Sheikh Ahmed says more must be done to encourage kids into sport

Level of UAE sport "embarrassing" - gold medal winner
Sheikh Ahmed Mohammed bin Hasher Al Maktoum is the UAE’s only gold Olympic medallist (Getty Images).

The UAE’s only Olympic medal winner has said the Gulf state must do more to encourage children to take up sports to improve the current “embarrassing” level of competitiveness.

HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Hasher Al Maktoum, who won gold in the double men’s trap during the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, told a Dubai newspaper that like many other Arab countries “lags far behind the rest of the world in sport.”

“The level of sport here is embarrassing,” he added. “In shooting there are only a handful of private ranges. There’s no academy for schools... Looking for an Olympic champion is far harder than finding a diamond.”

“A lot money in the UAE is spent on the wrong projects. Of all the money spent on sport here, 50 to 70 percent is spent on football. It’s a shame,” he said.

Sporting officials can only do so much, he added. “The government is busy running the country. The role of parents is important. Children spend too much time on their iPhones and in malls. They have to do sport for the good of themselves and the UAE.”

“They can still drive their Lamborghinis, but drive them to a sports club.”

Thirty UAE nationals headed to this year’s London Olympics to compete in a wide range of sports including football, triple jump and weightlifting, but so far the Gulf state has yet to win a medal.

Sheikh Ahmed, who retired after competing in China, is the only UAE national to ever win a medal at an Olympic Games. Last week Great Britain’s shooter Peter Wilson, who won the Olympic gold in double trap, paid tribute to Sheikh Ahmed, who has been training him since 2008.

“I was fortunate to get back with Sheikh Ahmed Al Maktoum and get back to a level where I was back on the funding programme and from there it has been an incredible journey and I have had an amazing four years and to come up with an Olympic gold is just an amazing feeling,” Wilson said.

“[Every] February I go out to Dubai for a month. And that is an opportunity to bulk train. I go out to see Ahmed and get a chance to shoot a huge amount of targets,” the Brit added.

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Sol 8 years ago

The IOC regularly reconsiders which sports should be included in the Olympic programme. For example, the Golf hobby has recently been (bizarrely) readmitted by the IOC. Hence one solution would be to lobby to get "Mall Loafing" and "Dangerous Driving" included as Olympic sports.
The only problem would be that with competition from KSA and Kuwait, UAE may only have a chance of Bronze.

Olympic Ollie 8 years ago

HH Shaikh Ahmed has represented the argument succinctly and precisely! All praise to him for raising the profile of this issue!

It is the parents that need to encourage their children to do the sports (other than football) and the governement should provide the staff resources (loads of Olympic talent retiring after these games), funding, and faciltities for the younger talent.

It is very gratifying to see the tribute by Peter Wilson praising Shaikh Ahmed for his assistance in his success. I feel that there is a team already in the vision and talents of these two men for the UAE!

Finish sports city and encourage the nations kids into sports 8 years ago

Rising obesity & diabetes levels show people need to change their lifestyle. Yes the government is running the country but there does have to be some of involvement to guide a population showing sports & health are a priority. You can not aspire to be one of the best if the overall attitude towards sports is let parents or schools deal with it as it just wont happen, the country needs prioritised investment in sports, the facilities & academies to succeed.

Dubai sports city half finished stadiums & facilities are the biggest example of how sport is not being prioritised, this area could be great for Dubai if only someone would realise its potential to the improve the health of the nation, give bored teenagers a focus and stop them getting into trouble. The british didnt used to be amazing at cycling but look at them now, the kiwis train hard &look at their rowers, big events inspire future athletes...dubai could host them and harness that if it focused on sports more than malls

His Excellency Dr Paul 8 years ago

Much as I'd agree in general, the real benefit isn't in gold medal tallies, but the effect on the wider health of the nation.

Britain has spent big in recent years, and is raking in gold medals. Sure people are proud. But there is no indication that people in general are more active.

Rather than focusing on sports like shooting, the UAE would gain far more to also target physical sports given that it does have a problem with obesity and diabetes. And the success of that shouldn't be measured in gold medals, but in improvements in health.

J76 8 years ago

I think Qatar would also be a clear medal hope. Its best chance in the "Dangerous Driving," particularly in the "Tailgating while beeping horn, flashing lights and forcing drivers into oncoming traffic" discipline. "Pavement mounting to cut queues at traffic lights" would also be prove fruitful, I think. As for "Mall Loafing," I think that's guaranteed Gold for the UAE with its superior training facilities.

Cerise 8 years ago

We need lots of Community Sports Centres, not places in the middle of nowhere which are heard to get to and are only for the wealthy.

Have family evenings at discount prices to encourage all the family to participate in sports. Keep it simple, affordable, community based and make it feel as normal and regular as doing the weekly shopping.

Secondary Schools could use the facilites during the day and that would also be another way of encouraging students to be competitive in sports.

When you know better you do better!

Arjun 8 years ago

With all due respect to the person who made UAE proud I can understand his sentiments. Unfortunately, UAE or any other GCC country does not have a community living method. There are basic amenities provided in a comm living through which you look upto live in a circle. Only until that happens you cant expect the younger generation to stop doing the above mentioned loafing. There is no city centre concept at all here......like a mayor hall or a town hall......forget a community centre for all. Things will change for good but when ???

Monkey Tennis 8 years ago

Given the key role UAE families play in the international horse racing circuit and the skills of some of its equestrians and the excellent performance of its football team at the Olympics and, in particular, given the size of the indigenous population of the UAE, it has nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to sports. A smaller country cannot compete with the giants of world sport such as America, China or Great Britain. It should concentrate on excellence in a small number of sports like, for example, South Korea or Jamaica. A huge country like India on the other hand that has 1.2 billion people from which to select its athletes, should be thoroughly ashamed of its showing. Not a single Gold medal so far and just 1 Silver. Pitiful.