UAE's elite athletes will get a chance to qualify for the London Olympics at the Asian Athletic Federation (AAF) Permit Meeting to be held at the Dubai Police Officers Club stadium in Al Garhoud on Friday.
The Dubai Open has attracted around 40 top athletes from 12 countries who will be competing in four different events — the 1,500 metres run for men and women, the 800 metres for men and the 5,000 metres for women.
Competition will get underway at 6.30pm, with the UAE hoping for at least three of its runners to achieve the Olympic qualifying mark. The event will also be telecast live on Dubai Sports Channel.
The international meeting will be held under the patronage of Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, President of the UAE National Olympic Committee (UAENOC) and organised by the UAE Athletics Federation (UAEAF) as part of the celebrations to mark World Athletics Day.
UAE's main hope in this competiton are reigning Arab women's champion in the 5,000 metres Alia Saeed Mohammed and Bethlhem Desalegn Belayneh, a silver medallist at the Asian Indoor Games in China earlier this year.
Their challenge is likely to come from Meryem Erdogan of Turkey, the 2010 European Under-23 cross country champion; former world junior champion Veronica Nyaruai Wanjiru of Kenya and Tiblet Diriba Hayu of Ethiopia, a dual champion earlier this year.
Alia has been competing for the UAE this past year and won medals at the Arab Junior Championships in Egypt and most recently won gold in the 400m and 800m in the GCC Women's Championships in Abu Dhabi.
The others are Mohammed Ahmed Al Shamsi in the 800m (men), Rashid Saeed and Ali Musabbah in the 1,500m (men).
Bahrain's Bilal Mansour, a former World Youth Champion and finalist at the World Championships, is a star attraction at the meeting.
Abdul Mohsen Al Dosary, assistant secretary general, General Authority for Youth and Sports Welfare said at a press conference at the UAENOC office on Wednesday they would use all their resources to help the country’s representative show their colours.
“The qualifier is a true test for the UAE lads and hopefully they will live up to the expectations and our immediate concern is to support all the sports associations to qualify as many players. Our ambition is greater than just establish a presence in the Games, but to make our presence felt,” said Al Dossary.
“UAE gold medallist Sheikh Ahmed Hashr Al Maktoum has set the best example and we are confident that our lads will be keen to follow in his footsteps," he added.
Saad Awad Rashed Al Muhairi, general secretary of the UAEAF said this year's competition is a small step for a bigger event next year.
"We are looking to qualify and then give our athletes the best chance to prepare for the Olympics," he said although they have until July 8 to qualify.
“The UAE athletes are knocking on the doors and we are here to help people to realise their dreams and goals,” said the tournament director Larry Barthlow who felt the future of the sport was in Asia.
"Two pacemaker will be assisting Alia and Bethlhem in their attempt to qualify," he said adding that Alia missed the mark by two seconds in her last attempt.
"The track at the Police Officers' Club is hard which is not good for training but to achieve the mark," he added.
Saucony will sponsor the prizes with the winner getting Dh10,000 and the runner-up Dh5,000.
Ahmed Al Kamali, president of the UAE Athletic Federation who could not attend the press conference due to an eye surgery said in a message earlier that the organisers were working hard to ensure Dubai Open 2012 is the best track and field event ever.
“We are excited to welcome fans from across the country to the Dubai Open and invite everyone to join us in a celebration of track and field athletics,” he said.