The Laureus World Sports Awards, which takes place in Abu Dhabi today, will have an important role to play in the development of future Arab sport stars, said a top government official.
Mohammed Ibrahim Al Mahmood, General Secretary of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council, said he believed that with the presence of so many champions in the emirate for the Awards, it will serve as a catalyst to inspire sportsmen and sportswomen of the region to reach new heights in the field of competitive endeavour.
"We're hoping that one day one of our sportsmen or sportswomen will win an award. That won't come without accepting challenges and without experience. But we are working hard to improve our young people, to open doors for them to practice sports and to achieve medals," said Al Mahmood speaking at the opening press conference for the Awards – which recognise sporting achievement during 2009.
"We want to see more goals achieved in the sporting arena, especially for the development of youth and women, and this is something we are actively pursuing. We have made sure to put in place the infrastructure and provide the necessary support to help encourage more aspiring athletes to go all the way. Laureus can help in that pursuit."
Nawal El Moutawakel, the first Muslim woman to win an Olympic medal when she triumphed in the 400m hurdles at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, applauded Abu Dhabi for encouraging more women to take part in sport. "Between when I competed in the early 1980s and now, the difference is like day and night regarding the participation of Arab women and Muslim women in the arena of international sports," said El Moutawakel, the first woman to chair the International Olympic Committee's coordination commission ahead of the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Abu Dhabi is the first Middle Eastern city to ever host the Awards, and marks a decade of remarkable expansion and progress for the Laureus Academy and Sport for Good Foundation. That was the message from legendary athlete Edwin Moses, the Academy's Chairman, to the press.
"There is no doubt that the Laureus World Sports Awards are now a major event on the international calendar," he said.
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