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Alia Al Hazami: Why doesn’t the UAE produce enough Olympians?
October 10, 2016
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Exclusive to The Gulf Today

This year in the Olympics, a very small number represented the UAE. One may argue that the UAE is a very small country; therefore, the small number of Olympians is not a surprise. However, that is far from the truth. The main issue with the UAE’s participation in the Olympics has nothing to do with the country’s size, but the country’s sports culture.

Sadly, the UAE’s educational system lacks investment in sports from a young age. In schools, barely any student actually plays sports during Physical Education (PE) classes. If anything, the students will play a match or two in either football or basketball until the period’s time elapses. The issue is not with the sport of their choosing, it is about the fact that after class, sports are not given any second thought.

Implementing a diverse sports schedule and making sure students actually play is vital for all public and private schools. Students need to have actual PE classes in which they get to experiment with different kinds of sports. For instance, each academic year or semester should be devoted to a different sport. That way, students will get the chance to go through more than one sport. Through that process, students can find their niche and possibly pursue a career in it.

Nonetheless, the weight of the lack of representation does not solely lie on the shoulders of schools, but the general public as well. Society has a very negative perception of pursuing sports as a career. Those who dare to become sportspeople receive negative comments accusing them of either wasting their time or neglecting their education. Frankly speaking, balancing a career in sports as well as an education is not rocket science. It is very doable as long as commitment, dedication, and time-management exist.

Moreover, monetary rewards need to improve. It is true that money does not matter much when you are passionate about what you’re doing, but realistically speaking, the low rewards are discouraging sportspeople in the UAE. It not only makes them feel like this hard work is not paid off, but also, getting into sports will make it impossible for them to support themselves and/or their family financially.

There are several ways in which the UAE can build a new athletic generation. Most Olympians train from their early childhood. For example, Serena Williams, a legendary tennis player and champion, has started her training to going professional at the age of three. There is no such thing as too early. The UAE should first begin with planting the seeds of sports in children at a young age. An average person takes about twelve years to train for their first Olympics. Even if by any chance, the said sportsperson does not qualify for the Olympics, their training would not go to waste, as it will only develop a generation of Emirati athletes who are capable of physical and emotional endurance.

The UAE has managed to develop immensely in the past few years by setting visions and working tirelessly to achieve them. The UAE is in dire need to create a vision of sports. If we set out our goals, achieving them is a task that we are definitely capable of achieving. As such, daring to dream of the day where UAE nationals wins big at the Olympics is not a farfetched idea.

The author is the writer of “Alatash,” a columnist, and an
International Studies and English Literature student at AUS.
Twitter: @aliaalhazami

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