An accomplished horseman in the best traditions of Arabic nobility, Sheikh Hamdan has often carried the flag of Dubai, the UAE and his family in equestrian events around the world with great distinction.
Although he had been competing internationally for sometime, Sheikh Hamdan shot to prominence in the world of endurance riding in December 2004, when he won the 120km Banat Al Reeh endurance ride at Dubai International Endurance City for the second time. He led his brother Sheikh Majid bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum over the finish line and even bettered an accomplished horseman such as his father, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in the race.
Earlier, Sheikh Hamdan had topped the World Endurance rankings in 2000, finishing the year as the world's best in his sport.
Fulfilling the promise displayed on that occasion a few years later, Sheikh Hamdan went on to win the team gold medal for the UAE at the European Open Championships.
He was also instrumental in bringing to UAE equestrian sport one of its biggest ever triumphs in 2006, when he spearheaded the UAE team to the endurance gold medal at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha.
He had served notice of his arrival on the world stage and the world sat up to watch and applaud.
In February 2008, Sheikh Hamdan won the President's Cup while leading a UAE clean sweep of the top three places in the His Highness The President of the United Arab Emirates Cup endurance ride. Riding Kaysand Farrazah, Sheikh Hamdan completed the gruelling 160 kilometres course in six hours 52 minutes and 29 seconds.
He beat a field of some of the top riders from around the world who were participating in the race ahead of the Endurance World Championship in Malaysia.
To put his achievement in perspective, even before the first loop of 34kms was over, four of the top contenders – Sheikh Rashid bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Sheikh Hazza bin Sultan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Omair Hussain Al Beloushi and Ali Mohammad Al Muhairi had all retired.
Sheikh Hamdan's horse was also adjudged "Best Conditioned Horse" and bagged a special cash prize, while he himself also won the key to a 4X4 vehicle for his triumph.
For his victory, Shaikh Hamdan was chosen to lead the UAE team to the World Endurance Horse Race in Kuala Lumpur.
Sheikh Hamdan started the year 2009 by riding in the second edition of the Mohammed bin Rashid Endurance Race Cup, a 160km race, which was held at the Dubai International Endurance City.
Sheikh Hamdan was also a member of the UAE team lead by Sheikh Mohammed that participated in the second round of the 120 kilometres Endurance Horse Ride Grand Prix at Bahrain International Endurance Village last month.
CLUB AND NATION
Sheikh Hamdan was appointed the Chairman of Al Ahli Club in March 2004 by his father Sheikh Mohammed.
The club prospered and expanded its activities under his leadership and in June last year, Sheikh Hamdan called for a new board for the club. Instructing Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs, to form a new board of directors which will also be headed by Al Gergawi, Sheikh Hamdan said: "Change is necessary for development," and emphasised the importance of giving qualified young people a chance to hold positions of importance.
Sheikh Hamdan also lent his patronage to the first Forum for Dubai Clubs held at the beginning of last year at the Baraha Hall in the Intercontinental Hotel. The motto for the forum, "Towards the Strategy of Superiority", was itself an insight into the nature of the young Dubai Crown Prince and his deep desire to excel.
The forum was attended by the eight clubs of Dubai Emirate – Al Ahli, Al Wasl, Al Shabab, Al Nasr, Dubai, Hatta, Dubai Chess Club and Dubai Special Sports Club.
Pursuing his policy of aiming for sporting excellence, in November Sheikh Hamdan ordered the setting up of a football investment company in Dubai that would meet international standards.
With this decision, Al Ahli became the first local club to become part of investment in the sport industry. The move took local football a step closer to the goal of being on par with the standards in Europe and Asia.
Eminent personalities and Sheikhs, both in the sports field and other public spheres, said the decision reflected Sheikh Hamdan's interest in finding new sources of revenue after sports, particularly football, became a world industry. This revenue would provide the economic feasibility to support development activities and programmes for football in Dubai and the UAE.
Later, in his capacity as the Chairman of the Dubai Sports Council, Sheikh Hamdan approved the design of the Dubai Beach Sports Park where the 2009 Beach Soccer World Cup finals are scheduled to be held.
The winner of the design was chosen by a special committee formed by the Dubai Sports Council, from several entries by international companies specialising in designing stadiums. Sheikh Hamdan asked that the implementation of the project be taken up in accordance with the schedule, keeping in mind the highest international standards for which Dubai is known.
This, he said, would not only help turn the emirate into a distinctive sports landmark, but would add beauty to Dubai's beaches which have became a favourite tourist attraction. Once completed, the Sports Park is expected to become a hub for football and other beach sports.
The approved design of the Park is in the shape of a semi-circle opening to the sea, with modern and traditional touches to its façade and ceiling. The view of the sea is expected to provide an attractive background to the games. The design provides for the addition of removable stands depending on the need of each championship. The designers have taken into account the facilities required during the games, including, hospitality rooms, eating-places and a medical centre. The Park, which will be built on a special beach in Jumeirah, will have adequate entry and exit facilities to allow movement of a large number of people.
LEADERSHIP IN SPORTS
The latest in Sheikh Hamdan's innovative moves to boost the level of sports in Dubai came last week with the Hamdan bin Mohammed Programme for Sports Leadership Development (HBMPSLD) unveiling its activities for 2009.
The HBMPSLD, an innovative leadership programme designed to develop future sports national leaders capable of promoting the sustainable development of Dubai in the sports field, announced it was poised to go full-scale in 2009 with its programme of activities following a highly successful launch period in 2008.
Within just six months of its inception in June, HBMPSLD launched a dedicated website, generated significant public awareness, finalised its pioneering batch of 33 participants and inaugurated the programme's first training modules, providing the much needed momentum to pursue its ambitious projects this year.
HBMPSLD will launch more modules this year focusing on sport development, the commercial aspect of sport, professional leagues, asset management, managerial and leadership strategies, and other important issues that affect the progress of sport in Dubai and the UAE. The dedicated sports leadership programme has also prepared several other complementary activities such as the "Blue Ocean Forum", "Reader today Leader tomorrow" and various group and class projects. "The Hamdan Bin Mohammed Programme for Sports Leadership Development has had a highly successful debut year in 2008 as we have accomplished all of our strategic goals. The programme has generated widespread support and has gathered some of the most promising sports leaders in the country who will be trained to take UAE sports to higher levels of success in the future. We will build on this momentum as we go full blast with our programme of activities this year. Our ultimate goal is to be able to harness the full potential of sport as a significant contributor to economic progress and social development," said Adel Al Shared, Chief Executive Officer of HBMPSLD.
Under Sheikh Hamdan's patronage, HBMPSLD aims to prepare ideal leaders capable of managing and developing the UAE's sports sector on par with international standards. HBMPSLD is the result of a complementary partnership between Dubai Sports Council and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Programme for Leadership Development, and has been developed in line with the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015.
Candidates of HBMPSLD will be trained to gain specialised skills and develop their abilities, leadership and administrative skills. HBMPSLD also provides executive and educational training programmes, and focuses on social responsibility, local sector development, and strengthening of international connections.
The key objectives of HBMPSLD include ensuring long-term systematic leadership development in sports; initiating changes for a progressive and productive sports society under the "Change Agents Programme"; convening an elite group of sports leaders to help participants benefit from their experiences; sharing insights about individual leadership styles and values; and helping Dubai Government to successfully implement the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015.
Even with pioneering new ideas for sports investment firms and bringing international football to the UAE, Sheikh Hamdan remains a traditionalist at heart, who is committed to keeping alive and expanding the glorious traditional pastimes of his forefathers – such as falconry, camel games and folkloric dances. He showed his inclination for the traditions very early when, in 2003, he launched a competition for the Al Youla dance – a traditional event where contestants perform their dances with dummy guns. The dance is an accompaniment at several ceremonies in the UAE.
A year later, Shiekh Hamdan opened the DSF Falconry Tournament, organised by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) under his patronage, and presented the winners of the three-day event with their prizes, including a new car for the winner of the 500 metre "Al Harrar" race.
In April last year, Sheikh Hamdan toured the Mazayin Dhafra Camel Festival being organised in the UAE's Western Region and sponsored by General Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and bought several prized camels.
Hamad bin Kardous, member of the festival's organising committee, announced that Sheikh Hamdan had offered Dh16.5 million for 16 camels of which Dh10m was paid for a camel owned by Sari Al Mazrouie, which was the highest in value.
More than 17,000 camels from the GCC countries were registered for the festival, taking place over two weeks. Camels are a matter of prestige in the Arab world and Sheikh Hamdan fully understands and appreciates this aspect of his heritage.
Displaying his active interest in the UAE flag flying atop international sports podiums in various disciplines, Sheikh Hamdan congratulated the members of Dubai's Victory Team in Class 1 World Powerboat Racing on their 1-2 finish at the Egyptian Grand Prix in October last year. He also congratulated the members of the Dubai International Club for Marine Sports and urged them to exert more efforts to continue the achievements.
Dubai's Victory Team has maintained a near stranglehold on the world Powerboat title in the recent past and the young Crown Prince, who is equally enthused by this modern sport as he is by the more traditional ones he excels at, was all praise for Nader Ben Hendi and Mohammed Al Marri, the victorious riders for the team.
Most recently, realising that great sporting achievements come only as a result of prudent investment and diligence, Sheikh Hamdan, in his capacity Chairman of the Dubai Sport Council, doubled the value of the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Creative Sport Award to Dh10 million in its first edition, from the Dh5m announced earlier.
The Board of Trustees of the award announced last week at a press conference the launch of the first edition of the award. They will be presented at a ceremony to be held in Dubai in the last week of November.
Praising the wisdom shown by Sheikh Hamdan in the matter, Mattar Al Tayer, chairman of the award's board of trustees, said: "The award translates the vision of Sheikh Mohammed on sponsoring talented people in all fields."
Asian Games glory
In December 2006, the UAE endurance team won the team gold in the Endurance event at the Asian Games in Doha and made history in the process.
The team comprised of Shaikh Rashid bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Shaikh Ahmad bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Shaikh Mayed bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum and of course Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The four sons of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, went down in history as the first all-brother team to win gold at a major international sporting event.
For Sheikh Hamdan, it was one of the crowning moments of an outstanding career so far in equestrian sports, and the indicator of more glory to come in the future.
Some distinguished achievements
- On August 7, 1999, he stood second in the Lenzburg Endurance Race in Switzerland.
- On July 9, 2000, he won the 140-km Tattersalls Endurance Race in the UK.
- On July 26, 2000, he came second in a 200-kilometre Al Maktoum Cup race in England.
- On September 29, 2001, he won the 160km Europe Open Endurance Championship.
- In 2002, he won the King's Cup in Spain.
- On August 14, 2002, he won the 120km Al Maktoum Endurance Cup.
- On June 29, 2002, he won the 120km Endurance Championship in Spain.
- In the local endurance races season of 1997-1998, he was crowned the champion for his distinguished achievements throughout the season.
- In 2002, in a historic and unprecedented achievement, he won the 120km Rashid bin Hamdan Al Maktoum Endurance Championship, and on the same day won the Dubai Racehorse Club Award For Amateur Knights in Nad Al Sheba.
His best moments:
- In 2000, he topped the World Endurance Rankings.
- In 2006, Sheikh Hamdan won the Gold Medal for the UAE at the Doha Asian Games, Qatar, in the endurance team event.