Connecting Through Sports
Through sports, UAE and US athletes increase cultural understanding, and advance the two countries’ shared values of openness, tolerance and respect for others. These exchanges take place through training programs and international competition. In 2019, the UAE will host the Special Olympics World Games, making it the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to host the event. Seven thousand athletes from more than 170 countries will compete in 24 sports at the World Games Abu Dhabi. The World Games follow the 2018 Special Olympics MENA Games that also took place in Abu Dhabi, with more than 1,200 athletes from the region participating.
In February 2018, the UAE Women’s National Hockey Team traveled to the US and Canada to celebrate the National Hockey League’s ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ month. The team met with professional and local hockey teams, government officials and community leaders in Washington, DC, Chicago and Ottawa. Through these sports exchanges, Emirati, American and Canadian players increased cultural understanding, broke down stereotypes and created lasting friendships. This trip followed UAE Women’s Hockey Team player Fatima Al Ali’s visit to Washington, DC for ‘Hockey is for Everyone’ month in 2017, when she met and practiced with the Washington Capitals.
At the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio De Janeiro, the UAE was represented by a team of 13 athletes (the country’s largest squad ever) in six different disciplines. The team included 18-year-old swimmer Nada Al Bedwawi, an NYU Abu Dhabi student who was the UAE’s first female swimmer to compete in the Olympics and was the UAE national team’s flag bearer. Another top UAE athlete, weightlifter Amna Al Haddad, trained extensively in the United States and is recognized as a pioneer in women’s sports.
In 2011, the UAE Women’s National Soccer Team visited the US for a month-long training program with their counterparts on the Philadelphia Independence women’s professional soccer team. By interacting with US players during training sessions and scrimmages, hosting community events and meeting with other community leaders, the UAE team honed their soccer skills while also educating Americans about the Emirates.