SPORTS FOR LIFE

Oman 2017 | TOURISM & LIFESTYLE | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Rashad Ahmed Mohammed Omer Al-Hinai, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Sports Affairs, on growing the local sports culture, hosting sporting events in the country, and supporting the development of athletes.

HE Rashad Ahmed Mohammed Omer Al-Hinai
BIOGRAPHY
HE Rashad Ahmed Mohammed Omer Al-Hinai is the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Sports Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman. With a vast experience in a wide range of sectors across the Omani economy, he is also the Chairman of Oman National Housing Bank, the Managing Director of Bin Omier Group of Companies, and the Managing Director of Family Entertainment Center.

What initiatives has the Ministry of Sports Affairs put in place to develop a sports culture in Oman?

We undertook a sports study of Oman, which involved different sectors including sport for competition, sports for health, and sports as a tourism promoter. Every sector has different ways to integrate them into our strategy. When promoting youth and sports, for example, it is not possible to implement a strategy alone; we must cooperate with the Ministry of Education on how to organize sports among the youth, how you start sports in schools, what type of sports, and what are the available facilities. We also work with the Ministry of Regional Municipalities, because it is important to have the proper infrastructure in order to accommodate the population in different areas such as clubs or complexes. Sport for competition is built through the youth in training centers and clubs, and it is built through associations and the Olympic Committee. Sport in general goes together with youth development, competition, culture, and health, so it has to be integrated as a habit, and we can see this in the new generation as it is healthier than before.

What are the main sports facilities and complexes currently used to host sporting activities and events in Oman?

We have various sport complexes in different regions across Oman and are already expanding some these developments. In almost every region in Oman, we have a full sport complex where we host more than one sport. For example, the most popular sport is football, and we have a stadium that hosts 20,000. We can also host large events in our indoor sports halls, such as volleyball, basketball, and handball competitions as well as indoor and outdoor Olympic swimming pools. It is not necessary to host them all in Muscat, as this is part of hosting sports tourism across the nation. For example, the Desert Marathon is an international event where we have a dual strategy targeting sports and at the same time tourism. The geography of Oman helps the success of these events, as the people participating see different views and terrains. There is 150km of desert, mountains, valleys, and beaches so our participants run through various sceneries. These people enjoy coming to Oman to do sports, and the media coverage encourages more people to participate and visit Oman for sports tourism; these are all positive results.

How does the ministry partner with Oman Sail to develop sailing programs that amplify the cultural significance of sailing in Oman?

Oman has a history around the world in terms of sailing. Oman Sail is doing a tremendous job of gathering more young kids that are interested in participating in this activity, youths who already have a sailing background and who are participating in competitions outside the present and promote the country abroad. Participating in those events by itself gives our youth mileage and experience, and people abroad get to understand the country. It is not only a matter of winning; we have to balance it both ways.

What is the ministry's Olympic strategy to support athletes' development and the advancement of sports associations?

Our aim from the beginning started with sport youth centers at different locations. We started with 10 or 12 and now we already have almost 600. To reach the Olympics requires a different strategy completely. As a government ministry, we are not the ones who create the teams; this is done by the associations and the Olympic committee. We are in the rear and try our best to prepare the infrastructure for almost all sports. We have the strategy we started four years ago with the youth centers and consider them incubators. Out of those sporting youths, we can pick a few of them and will take care of them in certain divisions of sport so that maybe they will reach Olympic levels. Let's hope that for the 2020 Olympics we can participate in bigger numbers.