The United Arab Emirates (UAE), already a high-profile location for international business, is making an effort to raise its profile in the international sports scene. This week, the New York University (NYU) Abu Dhabi is hosting a conference called, “Embracing Sports in the UAE: Building Domestically, Expanding Globally.” The goal of the event, which is taking place November 19-20 at NYUAD’s conference center at its campus on Saadiyat Island, is to identify the challenges and opportunities of hosting large international sporting events across the UAE.
The event will be attended by several high-profile individuals, including Omar Nour, the first Egyptian professional triathlete; Tamika Catchings of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever; Cameron Myler, a four-time Olympian in luge; sports business leaders such as Knut Frostad, CEO of Volvo Ocean Race; Ferran Soriano, CEO of the Manchester City Football Group; and Aref Hamad Al Awani, general secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council. The event has the patronage of H.E. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Culture, Youth, and Community Development.
“The UAE has positioned itself as both a regional and global force in the world of sports. From association football—including the purchase of Manchester City FC—to hosting championship golf, rugby, tennis, and Formula 1 racing, there is a growing sense of momentum and great pride that has served to elevate and to define this county in the eyes of the world,” said Arthur R. Miller, chairman and founder of the NYU School of Professional Studies Sports and Society Program. “This conference explores the opportunities made available, and the challenges posed, when building and growing an elite sports culture domestically and internationally.”
Conference sessions include topics such as “Fan Engagement in the Digital Age,” “Time to Play: Women and Sports in the UAE,” and “Sports Hospitality and Tourism: The Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Model.” The conference will also address injury prevention and issues of mitigating heat stroke.
While the UAE has been investing money and time in expanding its sporting infrastructure and attracting international fans, it has some challenges and negatives images to get over, including perceptions of gender inequality and an ultra-hot climate some feel are unsuitable to sporting events. There are also legal gray areas when it comes to the consumption of alcohol. Non-Muslim residents of the UAE are permitted to consume alcohol in bars if they have a license, but the law is murkier when it comes to tourists.
A full conference schedule is available on NYU’s Web site.