Dubai offers sports fans exciting experiences
Dubai provides a stage for some of the world’s most intense global sporting contests, raising its status as an international destination for the sector
Saeed Hareb: “Dubai’s status as a major sporting destination has been primarily driven by the vision of our leadership, which deeply understands the role sports plays in the growth of a global metropolis.”
“Over the next decade, sports will make important contributions to realising the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to make Dubai one of the world’s top three cities.”
Dubai Sports Council’s 10-year strategy seeks to raise the sports sector’s contribution to Dubai’s GDP from 2% to 4% annually by 2033
International sports events, world-class hospitality and exceptional infrastructure place Dubai at the epicentre of global sports tourism
Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships running till 4 Mar features a stellar line-up that includes World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal
The nine-week Dubai World Cup Carnival sees spirited international contests at the Meydan Racecourse
Dubai is hosting the fourth edition of Gov Games from 2-5 March 2023; 27 major cities worldwide are competiting in a new category called ‘Battle of the Cities’
$8 million Dubai Desert Classic held from 26-29 January raises Dubai’s profile as world’s golfing capital
Dubai brings together global cricket stars for another month-long multi-stage tournament, the DP World International League T20, the world’s second-most lucrative T20 league
Global sporting A-listers visit Dubai to savour its unique luxury hospitality and lifestyle
The air is crisp, the fans are bubbling with excitement and the newly resurfaced acrylic courts at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium are glowing vibrantly in the gentle afternoon sun. The world’s biggest tennis stars have converged on Dubai to pit their skills against each other in one of the most popular tournaments of the ATP World Tour and the WTA Tour.
Running until 4 March, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2023 features a stellar line-up that includes World No. 1 and 21-time Grand Slam winner Novak Djokovic, World No. 2 Rafael Nadal, Dubai 2021 champion Aslan Karatsev, 2021 semifinalists Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov, former champion Roberto Bautista Agut and Arab star Ons Jabeur. Last Saturday, the Czech Republic’s Barbora Krejcikova, won the women’s singles title with a stunning 6-4, 6-2 upset of World No.1 Iga Swiatek.
One of the most eagerly anticipated events on the UAE sporting calendar, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships 2023 represents the best of the city’s offerings as a global sporting destination. With pleasant temperatures, world class infrastructure, thrilling settings for fans, and unmatched hospitality and tourism experiences, Dubai is one of the best places to enjoy global sporting action, especially in the cooler months of the year.
Few cities in the globe can rival Dubai in terms of the sheer number of world-class events in various disciplines. Dubai is a preferred venue among international sporting bodies for hosting global tournaments because of its exceptionally successful record of hosting multi-stage competitions. The city offers a smorgasbord of sporting action in diverse disciplines including golf, tennis, cricket, motorsports, basketball, horse racing, rugby, polo, distance racing and more.
His Excellency Saeed Hareb, Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council said: “Dubai’s status as a major sporting destination has been primarily driven by the vision of our leadership, which deeply understands the role sports plays in the growth of a global metropolis. Over the next decade, sports will make important contributions to realising the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to make Dubai one of the world’s top three cities. Dubai’s diverse and packed line-up brings both global stars and fans from around the world to the city, not only enriching the emirate’s sporting landscape but also serving as springboards for boosting travel and tourism and providing spin-offs for various other sectors.”
In February, His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, launched a 10-year strategy to develop Dubai’s sports sector and raise its contribution to the Dubai Economic Agenda D33. The strategy seeks to double the contribution of the sports sector to Dubai’s GDP from 2% to 4% annually. Dubai also aims to organise 3,000 local, regional and international events and host 1,000 international training camps over the next 10 years. The number of sports events held annually in Dubai will be increased to 500 and progressively to 1,000. The Strategy also aims to increase the percentage of sporting events hosted in partnership with the private sector to 90%.
Sports tourism on the rise
The last few years have seen the sports sector emerging as a key growth driver for the city’s tourism industry and Dubai’s development as a multi-faceted global destination. The sports sector’s contribution to Dubai’s economy exceeded AED9 billion in 2021 alone. The sector also generated 105,000 job opportunities, accounting for 3.8% of the total employment in Dubai. In the year 2022, international sports events held in Dubai brought together more than 31,000 sportspersons and 713,000 fans from all over the world.
For the global sports fan, a visit to the emirate to attend international events is an opportunity to combine front-row experiences of world-class tournaments with the chance to enjoy Dubai’s luxury hospitality and tourism attractions, varied retail offerings and eclectic gastronomy and culture.
Leading golfing destination
Last month, Dubai was the cynosure of the global golfing fraternity, with some of the world’s biggest stars in the game contesting in the Dubai Desert Classic held from 26-29 January. Featuring a prizemoney of $8 million, the Dubai Desert Classic is regarded as a leading European Tour event. Around 65,000 spectators watched the prestigious tournament, 18,000 of whom were international golf fans.
UK’s golfing legend Rory McIlroy won his third Dubai Desert Classic title this year, cementing his status as a legend of the game. His nail-biting contest with Patrick Reed made the event one of the most followed marquee tournaments in the elite global golfing circuit. Other stars who took part in the competition included Shane Lowry, Tommy Fleetwood, Ryan Fox, Tyrrell Hatton and Patrick Reed.
Over the last three decades, Dubai has grown in reputation as one of the world’s most sought-after golfing destinations. As the host of major global tournaments, the city offers one of the best venues for ardent fans of the game to enjoy world-class contests. Especially when the extreme winter weather makes golfing impossible in other parts of the world, Dubai’s immaculately designed greens and fairways set against the city’s stunning skyline give fans a picture-perfect ambience to enjoy the game. Challenging courses designed by golfing greats like Sir Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Ernie Els are among the many venues that give fans exceptional golfing experiences.
Dubai reminded the world why it is the globe’s biggest horse racing destination when the 2023 Dubai World Cup Carnival galloped to a spirited start at the Meydan Racecourse with an action-packed programme. The nine-week Carnival that began on 6 January features 21 group races for Thoroughbreds and Purebred Arabians, as well as 20 handicaps – 10 dirt and 10 turf – complementing the Pattern races. The Carnival reaches its crescendo with the Super Saturday on 4 March, the official dress rehearsal for the $30.5 million Dubai World Cup meeting, the world’s richest horse race, scheduled to be held on 25 March.
The highest-ranked racehorses and jockeys from around the world are participating in the 2023 Carnival. Passionate fans of the sport from all four corners of the globe are visiting Dubai during its 2022-23 horse racing season to get up close and personal with some of the equestrian world’s biggest stars, apart from enjoying fine dining, luxury hospitality and exciting tourism activities in the city.
Multi-stage cricket league tournament
Cashing in on the popularity of cricket in the UAE, Dubai played host to another multi-stage tournament this winter, the DP World International League T20 (ILT20). The six-team tournament held from 13 January to 12 February featured 34 matches, with each team playing the others twice before four playoff matches. Rated as the world’s second-most lucrative T20 league, ILT20 featured a strong roster of international cricketers including Sunil Narine, Joe Root, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Trent Boult, Alex Hales, Sam Billings, Tom Curran and Moeen Ali. With tickets starting from as low as AED10, cricket fans from across all sections of society were able to enjoy the games of the tournament, whose final was held at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
The presence of a vast expatriate population that is passionate about cricket makes any global cricket tournament a special experience in Dubai. With their enthusiasm for the game, fans in Dubai create a special atmosphere at cricket events. With the global stars in the tournament having a massive following, the DP World International League T20 attracted cricket lovers from across the GCC and the subcontinent.
This year, Dubai also hosted the 22nd Dubai Marathon, the region’s oldest long-distance running race and one of the world’s fastest-distance races. Held on 12 February, the event brought together athletes from around the world to participate in the main marathon and associated races including the 10 km road race and 4 km Fun Run. Returning after a break of three years, the Dubai Marathon, organised by the Dubai Sports Council was held at a new venue, the Expo City Dubai, which provided a picturesque setting with its stunning architectural marvels and beautiful open areas. Ethiopian Abdisa Tola won the professional men’s race on his marathon debut while his compatriot Dera Dida Yami won the professional women’s race.
Dubai also hosted the Hankook Dubai 24 Hours Fast Car Challenge this winter with the participation of more than 100 vehicles, top of which were Ferrari, Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, BMW, Ford and Renault. Held from 13 - 15 January, the 24-hour endurance race that has become a fixture of the Dubai Autodrome’s adrenaline-fuelled calendar featured over 80 entries in three categories including GT3, GTX and TCR. Valentino Rossi, a seven-time MotoGP winner, took part in the event in his debut for the BMW M Team WRT.
Dubai Autodrome also hosted two other automobile races this winter including Dubai Kartdrome Oblate on 21 and 22 January and the Ferrari Asian Car Challenge from 27 - 29 January. Other major tournaments hosted by Dubai this winter included the Polo Silver Cup from 21 January to 4 February, featuring the world’s strongest polo teams and the 32nd Dubai International Basketball Championship from 27 January to 5 February.
In addition to local and global sporting championships, Dubai organised a vast number of community running races this winter including the Ultimate Run on 20 January, Dubai Creek Half Marathon Championship and Palm West Run on 22 January, the Dubai Festival City Night Run on 23 January, the EXPO City Run on 24 January, the Business Bay Run on 25 January and the Dubai Harbor Run on 29 January. Hatta hosted the Wadi Bih Run on 29 January, a race that took participants on a route set against the backdrop of spectacular mountain scenery.
Dubai is currently hosting the 2023 edition of Gov Games, the high-energy team-building contest that is seeing major cities worldwide competing in physical and mental challenges designed to reinforce team spirit and collaboration. Featuring a total prizemoney of AED3.6 million, this year’s Gov Games has introduced a new category called ‘Battle of the Cities’ as part of a move to expand the event globally. The 2023 competition, which started today and runs till 5 March, features 82 all-male teams and 27 all- female teams in the ‘Government Entities’ category, 28 teams in the ‘Communities’ category and 27 international teams in the ‘Battle of the Cities’ category.
World-leading sports infrastructure
Dubai’s sports facilities represent a key factor driving Dubai’s profile on the global sporting calendar. The Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium has been voted for three years as the world’s ‘Best Venue’ by players on the ATP World Tour. One of global cricket’s iconic stadiums, the Dubai International Cricket Stadium has played host to many cricketing mega events including the T20 World Cup, the Asia Cup and the IPL. Further, Dubai’s comprehensive hospitality, logistics and health infrastructure and its ability to create the safe environment necessary for the organisation of large tournaments make it an ideal venue for international sporting events.
Dubai’s prime location and superior facilities have also made it a preferred training base for international athletes and sporting stars. Dubai is home to state-of-the-art coaching academies across disciplines, which are grooming the international stars of the future. The city is home to over 400 academies that offer expert coaching in all kinds of sports, and more than 100 public and private sports clubs.
Dubai’s pleasant climate and award-winning facilities saw the city hosting training camps and friendly matches in 2022 for more than 120 international teams in different sports across swimming, synchronized swimming, modern pentathlon, cycling, tennis, football, badminton, cricket, rugby and golf.
Magnet for sporting A-listers
As one of the world’s best places to live, visit and work, Dubai has become a magnet for international sports stars. Global sporting A-listers who visited Dubai this winter to savour its unique luxury hospitality and lifestyle attractions included Lionel Messi and the Argentina football squad, Brazilian football star Ronaldinho, England football players Marcus Rashford, Luke Shaw, and Mason Mount, Egyptian football star Mo Salah, Liverpool football team members Darwin Ribeiro and Roberto Firmino, and Indian cricket star Virat Kohli.
Dubai’s popularity as a vacation spot for global sporting stars, underlines its emergence as one of the world’s biggest sports tourism hubs. A diverse calendar of international sports events, world-class luxury hospitality, hotels catering to diverse needs, global connectivity, and exceptional urban infrastructure and facilities, have placed Dubai at the epicentre of global sports tourism.
Driven by the leadership’s unrelenting commitment to excellence, the city’s strategic location, robust infrastructure, and exceptional services across all sectors, Dubai is set to grow in stature as one of the world’s most popular sporting destinations.