FROM CYCLING TO CRICKET

Dubai 2020 | TOURISM | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Saeed Mohammed Hareb, Secretary General of Dubai Sports Council (DSC), on sports in the region, soft power, and sponsorship plans.

How is Dubai's sport scene positioned within the region?

Dubai, without a doubt, is a leading sports destination; that is not just in the region, but globally. This is thanks to the visionary leadership of HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and the guidance of HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Sports Council. Dubai is a brand that is synonymous with quality in every sphere. It is no different in sports. We believe in hosting and delivering events of the highest quality and making sure both athletes and fans return with unforgettable memories of their stay in Dubai. We have some of the world's best sporting infrastructure, but our biggest advantage is our leadership, who love sports and have worked tirelessly to build infrastructure and to encourage both Emiratis and expatriates to embrace sports and a physically active lifestyle.

How do sports contribute to Dubai's soft power and the Emirate's brand?

Sport is, has been, and always will be on the top of our government's agenda. It is one of the top objectives of the Dubai Plan 2021. Our wise and visionary leadership understands that sport plays a big role in the growth and appeal of a truly global city. Sport is also becoming an increasingly important element in the tourism industry. According to some studies, the sports tourism industry is worth billions and is expected to grow at a rate of more than 6% in the coming years. In Dubai, we have been building and investing in our sports industry for more than 40 years. Today, we can boast of sporting landmarks like the Meydan Racecourse and the Hamdan Sports Complex. We also have some of the world's best golf courses, including one in Hatta, transforming Dubai into one of the leading golf tourism destinations in the world. Name the sport and we have it here, from cycling, tennis, table tennis, badminton, squash, aquatics, to cricket. Dubai is home to more than 200 nationalities and our sporting calendar embraces this diversity. Our focus is on encouraging every segment of our community to not just watch, but embrace sports and physical activity because, as studies have shown, sports is a fountain of positivity and happiness in society. You could call Dubai a City of Challenges as well. We have four different challenges on four different surfaces: ice, sand, mud, and the challenging hills of idyllic Hatta. These Challenges are a huge hit among the community and attract a great number of participants. The numbers keep increasing with every event.

How is the government and its policies helping the sports brand of Dubai here and internationally?

We are blessed to have a leadership that has always emphasized the value of sports and an active lifestyle. They love sport and understand the meaningful role it plays in creating a healthy and vibrant society. Sports have always played a positive role in an individual's development. In addition to the physical benefits, sports help in building character and developing strategic, analytical, and leadership skills. The government wants to harness this power of sports and create an oasis, where values like tolerance and inclusiveness. We hope these values that sports encourages and promotes can become the norm for generations to come.

How does DSC add value to Dubai through its attraction of sports events and sponsorships?

Our greatest advantage is our visionary leadership, who through their persistence and hard work have turned Dubai into the jewel of the Gulf. Every time a top sports event or international sports federation decides to come to Dubai, they are assured of quality. Look around you and you will see quality everywhere—from the Burj Khalifa to some of the world's swankiest hotels and malls, from one of the busiest airports in the globe to the world's favorite airline. The list goes on. This assurance of quality is the reason why all the world's top sports stars, events, and international federations want to keep coming back to Dubai. Beyond events, the sports stars keep coming here for their vacations as well because this is one place where they are assured of privacy. Dubai is their favorite haunt, their favorite destination to relax and recharge. Their families also want to keep coming back because Dubai is a complete family destination, with multiple attractions to charm the young and old, men, women and children.

What are your expectations and plans for the future?

The plans and strategies of DSC have always been aligned with the strategic objectives of the Government of Dubai, and our focus has been on creating a distinguished and happy sports community. Moving forward, this goal will remain the same. We will remain committed meeting the government's strategic objectives and help create the most physically active community in the world, as our Chairman HH Sheikh Hamdan envisions.