TBY talks to HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council (DSC), on what is being done to inspire the next generation of athletes in Dubai.

HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb
HE Saeed Mohamed Hareb hails from a family of leading seafarers and has been, from an early age, tirelessly preserving and promoting the traditions of his country as much as serving it. His love for the sport secured him a place in the national football team and he travelled internationally for several sports champions representing his nation. In November 2014, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, Chairman of Dubai Sports Council appointed HE Saeed Hareb the Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council the official government body responsible for the development of the sport sector in the Emirate of Dubai.

Segiu Toma won bronze at the 2016 Rio Olympics in the men's judo. How can the Dubai Sports Council push for more UAE athletes to successfully compete on the global stage?

One of our main objectives is to develop channels for young people to cultivate their sporting and cultural talents and aptitudes to enable them to achieve local, national, and international results. We have launched programs to help achieve this, namely the Champions Program for Academies, which has developed from one of the eight recommendations that came from the Sport Innovation Lab in May 2016. This program nominates and incubates talented athletes across a variety of sports, helping to boost their technical skills and introducing them to sports champions who have already represented the UAE, sharing their experiences of high sporting achievement. This will foster the environment required to support sports academies.

During the summer Paralympics, the UAE took home seven medals. How are facilities for disabled athletes being enhanced?

In the UAE, we believe that disabled people are an important part of our society and should have equal opportunities in all aspects of life, including sport. When the Paralympic heroes came back from the summer games, they were received and honored by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai and HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. In terms of internal initiatives, Dubai Club for the Disabled is one of nine affiliated clubs of DSC, and it offers an array of sports. We have opened the first swimming pool designed to meet international Paralympic specifications, including safety systems, to host international championships. We also organize both the Fazza International Wheelchair Basketball Championship and the Wheelchair Basketball Championship in the Nad Al Sheba Sports Tournament (NASS).

Involving women in sport is another unique challenge. Where is the drive coming from in terms of both mass engagement and professional development?

Increasing the number of women engaging in sport is part of our strategic plan, and accordingly the women's sport committee has been formed to promote these two aspects. One avenue will be to organize sports events for women, one of which is the Sheikha Hind Sport Tournament, which will mobilize 500 staff members from government entities in Dubai. The events organized by the committee help to promote women in sport, highlighting opportunities to practice competitive sports in whatever capacity, which will ultimately lead to an increase in the number of professional sportswomen.

How will the newly launched Hamdan Initiative develop and motivate the community in Dubai?

The Hamdan Initiative targets the whole of society and aims to inspire a love and passion for sports. It is designed for people of different ages, young and old, and involves a variety of initiatives; one is a 92-km walk, covering the whole city by foot, over a series of legs, handing their walk over to other teams, who then hand it on to other teams. We have been involved on the corporate side, too. Adidas will provide stations where participants can go for a clinical survey that will assess their strength, fitness, and so on. We also have a walking program for elderly people to inspire them to stay healthier and feel better for longer. We also have a ranking system, giving five-star rankings to the top four or five events. Last year, we gave this award to Meydan, which organized the Dubai Cup, a golf and tennis tournament.