Sports in the UAE
Since the formation of the UAE in 1971, the political leadership has given every attention to the growth, welfare and institutionalisation of sport sector in view of the significant role it plays in the development and advancement of the nation. Establishing and maintaining sports clubs is under the scope of social development services.
The UAE is keen on providing the necessary support for sports in the country, through the construction of many modern sports facilities such as football (soccer) stadiums, car-racing tracks, golf courses and training centres throughout the country, to serve professionals and beginners.
Participation in competitions open for all residents
In April 2018, the UAE Government approved a federal law which allows all UAE residents, regardless of their nationalities, to participate in national sports competitions held in the country. The law applies to children of Emirati mothers, UAE passport holders and all those born in the UAE along with residents of all nationalities.
The move aims to promote sports in the UAE and widen the base of talented participants in various sports. It also seeks to instill the value of loyalty to UAE and the government agenda of integrating all segments of society in a peaceful co-existence.
Sports and Vision 2021
Achieving a cohesive society and preserved identity is one of the six pillars of National Agenda in line with Vision 2021. One of the KPIs to measure such achievement is the number of medals won in the Olympic and Paralympic championships in various sports.
In October 2015, the UAE Cabinet approved a federal budget of AED 48.5 billion for the year 2016. More than 50 per cent of this was set aside for health, education and social development services collectively. Social development services alone received 15.4 per cent of the budget amounting AED 7.5 billion. The Government supports social development services through public funds to support sports clubs and other priorities such as families with children, maternal and child welfare, disabled persons and youth.
Traditionally, the Emiratis engaged in falconry and racing horses, camels, salukis and dhows as a way of survival. However, with changing times and laws these activities are now practised purely as a regulated sport.
At the end of the annual hunting season, falcons undergo medical check-ups at the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital and only the healthy birds are let into the wild. Others are treated at the hospital. Each falcon is micro-chipped for identification and protection.
Equestrian sports in the UAE include endurance, show jumping, eventing, dressage and racing. The late H. H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan started endurance rides in the UAE. Even today, several members of the royal families in the UAE passionately pursue equestrian sports.
Both H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his son H. H. Sheikh Hamdan are exceptionally gifted endurance riders and have won several international endurance rides. H. H. Sheikh Mohammed owns the Godolphin stable in Dubai and runs Darley, the global thoroughbred breeding operation from the United Kingdom.
Camel racing was mainly staged to mark important social occasions such as wedding ceremonies, community festivals or the visits of Sheikhs to Bedouin villages. Today, it is an organised sport involving valuable prizes and cash awards worth millions of Dirhams.
The local breed - Mahaliyat, the Omani breed - Omaniyat, the Sudanese camels - Sudaniyat and the interbred - Muhajanat are the main breeds used in the racing competitions.
Bull-fighting still takes place in the emirate of Fujairah. It is a weekly activity practised during the cooler months.
The modern era brought several sports to the UAE such as football, golf, polo, tennis, rugby, sailing, yacht and motor racing. Emiratis are zealous fans of football.
Recreational and adventure activities
Popular recreational and adventure activities include sky diving, golfing, desert safari, dune buggy riding, cycling, land sailing, quad biking, dune bashing, sandboarding, canoeing, kayaking, surfing, wakeboarding, jet skiing, snorkelling, scuba diving, fishing, ice-skating and snow skiing.
Since the UAE hosts several major international tournaments, it provides the best of facilities in terms of cricket/football stadiums, equestrian clubs, tennis courts, racetracks and a circuit for Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Some of the facilities in the different fields of sports are:
Updated on 13 May 2018