Time Out celebrates Rio 2016 by profiling the Olympic sports to try in Dubai, from handball to tennis, badminton to weightlifting and more
The 2016 Olympic Games is arguably the most anticipated event of the year. From Friday August 5 to Sunday 21, athletes from more than 200 nations will be competing for medals, attempting to break records and doing their countries proud.
And whatever it is you choose to watch, we can be certain you'll be inspired somewhere along the line to take up something new, or return to an old favourite sport. So whether you like lifting, throwing, jumping, firing or pretty much any other form action, we've got you covered with this list of where to try every single Olympic sport in Dubai.
Oh, and Modern Pentathlon isn't listed because it comprises fencing, swimming, horse riding, running and shooting!
Ultimate Athletics devises specific one-to-one training on a variety of track and field events for people of all ages and abilities. Hurdles, long jump, high jump, triple jump, shot put, discus and javelin are all covered, as well as the full spectrum of track distances. Competition nights take place throughout the season. From Dhs700 for a 13-week programme.
Diving was introduced to the Olympics in 1904 and is fast becoming a popular pastime. Budding Tom Daleys can head to Hamdan Sports Complex, which has diving platforms that stand at 10m, 7.5m, 5m, 3m and 1m. Prices vary. Sun-Thu 8am-10pm, Fri 3pm-10pm, Sat 7am-10pm.
Founded 18 years ago, Speedo Swim Squads Dubai coaches all levels and ages. Swimmers are encouraged to embrace their competitive side and take part in the club’s competitions, and for those who prefer long distances, even in the pool, there’s the marathon. Urban Energy has also introduced a second Swim Fitness class for the summer, which covers advanced techniques and endurance. Sun and Thu, 6am-7am.
If you fancy a combination of swimming, dance and gymnastics, synchronised swimming could be for you. At the aptly named Synquatics, you can learn to swim solo, duet, trio or as a team, combining a range of arm and leg movements to music. As well as being fun, the sport will improve endurance, flexibility and, well, grace. Sessions are open to confident swimmers over six years old and you can try it out once, twice or three times a week. Don’t forget your nose clip… Prices vary.
Water polo was the first ever Olympic team sport and combines the rules of basketball, soccer and hockey with wrestling and swimming. Play the sport with Dubai Camels Water Polo Club, which trains at Hamdan Sports Complex. It’s not suitable for beginner swimmers or young children, but everyone else is encouraged. The Dubai Water Polo Tournament takes place at the sports facility from Thursday October 6 to Saturday 8. Dhs50 per session. Mon, Wed 8.15pm-9.45pm.
Run by the head of the UAE national archery team, Dubai Archers offers anyone the chance to become a modern-day Robin Hood (with a bow and arrow, that is). The club has target ranges from 10 to 90 meters with an area specifically for beginners. They also provide entry-level fibreglass bows, wooden bows, finger tabs and arm guards to get you started. Dhs95 for two-and-a-half hour lessons for beginners (including basic tuition and equipment rental). Open sessions run from 8am-11am on Fridays. Call to book classes at any time.
This is a well-established sport in Dubai, with the UAE Open Badminton Tournament having run for 39 years straight. India Club on Oud Metha Road organises contests as well as allowing its members to use its courts as much as they want all year round (call for membership fees). If you’re looking to get beginners’ lessons try Shuttle Time Dubai, a group currently playing at Dubai Sports World but that will have changed grounds by August 27 (contact them via Facebook or Twitter for the update).
Easily one of the most sought-after tickets at any Olympics, basketball is also one of Dubai’s best-loved sports, with countless courts dotted around the city. Duplays runs a number of leagues and tournaments throughout the year, including three-on-threes, pick-ups and corporate competitions. Find a session online that suits you. Prices, times and locations vary.
Founded by two Emiratis, Round 10 in Al Quoz is the leading boxing-specific club in the UAE. With a team of dedicated professional coaches, some of whom have worked with the UAEBF, it offers more than 20 boxing classes a week to people from all walks of life, schooling them in the finer points of the sport. They even showcase their talents at The Fight, a professional boxing night arranged in collaboration with sponsors. It’s an event the owners hope will become a regular thing.
Home to the longest combined white-water channels in the world, Wadi Adventure in Al Ain is a thrill-a-minute experience for anyone looking to try something a little different. The three world class runs reach a total length of 1,133 metres, and have sections for all experience levels. Group and private lessons are available, and you can compete with team rafting classes. The facility also has a surf pool capable of making 3.3 metre waves every 90 seconds, plus adult and toddler pools. Dhs50 (general admission), from Dhs100 (lessons). Sun-Thu 10am-7pm; Fri-Sat 10am-8pm.
It can’t be perfectly replicated here in Dubai (in the Olympics, the event is raced on a concrete “track”), but for BMX riders, the brilliant XDubai Skatepark at Kite Beach is a good place to start. One of the most advanced in the world, it is open to everyone, including skateboarders and scooter enthusiasts and features two bowls, 11 bowled corners, three flatbanks and numerous rails, ramps and freestyle spots. There are 29 obstacles in total. Rad. Free. Open daily 4pm-3am.
Get a feel for riding off road as part of the desert safari experiences with Platinum Heritage, with offers a Desert Fat Bike Ride. The thick-tyre all-terrain bikes are tough going on the legs, but are good fun when exploring the vast expanse that stretches out to the east of the emirate. Platinum Heritage takes two-hour wildlife-spotting tours through the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, with breakfast, hotel pick-up and other amenities all provided. Minimum height required is 130cm. From Dhs495. Daily from 6.30am, starting Saturday October 1.
With opportunities to cycle in the city limited – and even illegal in many places – the 100km Al Qudra Bike Track is perfect for anyone from MAMILS (Middle Aged Men In Lycra) to SMS (Sunday Morning Strollers), and even rollerbladers. To be expanded to reach a smaller route already in use at Nad Al Sheba, the Al Qudra track has two start points (the first not far beyond Arabian Ranches and Studio City and the second 18km further up the road), in the middle of which is the specialist Trek Bicycle Store offering rental services and mechanics, a coffee shop and medical centre. Free. Rentals available from Trek Bicycle Store Open daily 6am-midnight.
Whether you’ve never sat on a horse before or are a fully fledged dressage diva, Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club hosts lessons at all levels and for all abilities. Complete beginners will learn the basics while more advanced riders can hone their showjumping or polo skills. There are also pony club days for the kids, and a variety of restaurants on site to refuel at. Group lessons from Dhs220 for 45 minutes.
For many who think of fencing, all that comes to mind is a scene from Peter Pan or The Mask of Zorro. But those who want to know the difference between their foil, épée and sabre should sign up for a class with Dimitar Kestenov (a five-time National Champion of Bulgaria in the Modern Pentathlon) at MK Fencing Academy. While “stabbing” seems to be the main act, the sport is not about violence, it’s about discipline and tact. Dhs80 per person (beginner’s group training session).
The Dubai Amateur Football League is the largest amateur league in the Middle East, with a Premiership, divisions two to four and a social veterans over 35s league. More than 1,000 players take part and there are teams for all levels. The league runs from September to April, and then offers players a summer league from May until August. Teams play across Dubai and are open to new players. Go online to sign up with a squad near you (men only). Duplays also organises competitive seven-a-side football four nights a week at Dubai American Academy, Al Barsha (www.duplays.com). For ladies, the Dubai Women’s FA play weekly at Jebel Ali. Sign up online for prices, times and locations.
Although some of the world’s best players have pulled out of the Games, the chance to become the first golf Olympic champion for 112 years has still enticed a whole host of big names in the sport. If your technique needs working on, The Academy by Troon Golf at The Address Montgomerie Dubai has just launched an indoor Swing Studio, which houses plenty of top-of-the-range equipment to help you cut down on your dropped shots. A particular highlight is the E6 TruGolf Simulator on which you can play more than 80 world-class courses without even stepping outdoors. Dhs120 (two-hour simulator session). Until September 30.
Dubai International Handball Club is your best bet if you already have experience playing this exhilarating sport, which is a halfway house between basketball and indoor football (for those of you who’ve never heard of it before). The men’s team is based at Al Wasl Sports Club on Oud Metha Road, while the women’s squad plays at Al Sufouh Secondary School Hall at Jumeirah 3. There’s a handball school for youths aged five to 17 and even a beach handball team as well. Call for membership fees. Sun, Mon and Wed, 9-11pm. Al Wasl Sports Club, Oud Metha Road (men), Sun 9pm-11pm; Thu 9.30pm-11.30pm. Al Sufouh Secondary School Hall, Jumeirah 3 (women).
Dubai Hockey Club was founded in 2003 and offers enthusiasts an organised way to train, practise and compete in the sport. Training sessions take place outdoors at Modern High School in Nad Al Sheba and indoors at Horizon School, Umm Sheif, and the club is open for sessions throughout the year. Matches and tournaments are played against local UAE clubs, GCC clubs and international teams, making it a great fraternity for newbies, improvers, experienced players and, yes, the super-competitive. Dhs35 (members): Dhs60 (non-members), Dhs600 (annual membership fee). Dubai Hockey Club, Mon and Wed 8pm-9.30pm (Modern High School); Sat 6pm-7.30pm (Horizon School).
Team Nogueira Dubai runs courses in martial arts from muay thai to aikido, and have classes six days a week. Judo is the only Olympic sport on offer, and if you want to follow in the footsteps of Ronda Rousey, who won an Olympic medal for it in 2008, you should try it out. Dhs499 (12 one-hour sessions over the course of a month). Team Nogueira Dubai, Mon, Wed 8.30pm; Sat noon. 4th Street, Al Quoz 2 (behind Audi showroom).
With sessions on Dubai Creek and around the Palm Jumeirah, Monty’s Rowing School has got both ends of the city covered. Sessions are held every day of the year, taking place in singles, doubles, quads and octo sculls (eight rowers with two oars each, to the uninitiated), while lessons are also available to beginners or those wanting to better their skills. Membership packages are available, but if you’d rather book on a lesson-by-lesson basis, there’s no obligation to sign up. Dhs150 (non-member), Dhs75 (with quarterly membership package at Dhs700), free (with annual membership at Dhs6,000). Riva Beach Club, Shoreline Apartments Building 8, Palm Jumeirah; Dhs120 (non-member), Dhs60 (with quarterly membership package at Dhs550), free (with annual membership at Dhs4,500).
One of the most fiercely competitive events at any Games, the rugby sevens brings together the world’s finest exponents of the shortened game. Where better to hone your tackling, passing and kicking than at The Sevens Stadium, which the Dubai Hurricanes call home. The club has teams for all age groups, including veterans, all run by top-notch coaches with a real passion for the sport. Sign up and you’ll be joining more than 800 members from over 40 different nations. Get your game on. From Dhs1,150 (annual membership).
Watercooled Dubai has a number of RS dinghies and Hobie catamarans you can get out on the water in. Based at JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort, the watersports hub offers private hire, individual lessons and group lessons. Intermediate solo sailors and crews of beginners can try the RS Feva or RS Vision, while the RS500 is ideal for taking your skills to the next level. Families or groups can zoom across the calm Jebel Ali waters on the 16ft, dual-hulled Hobie catamaran. Boat hire from Dhs130 for 30 minutes.
The shooting range at the Al Ain Equestrian, Shooting & Golf Club offers indoor and outdoor shooting ranges that are up to Olympic standards, and you can have a go whether you want to try it out for fun, or if you’re hoping to compete yourself. There are professional trainers, and all ages are welcome. The shooting range is open from 1pm to 8pm, and there are a variety of guns to select. Dhs120 for 50 bullets on the 9mm pistol range, Dhs90 for 50 bullets on the rifle range, Dhs140 for 25 bullets on the shotgun range.
Founded by a former Polish international player, Dubai Table Tennis Academy, a first of its kind in the Middle East, welcomes all ages and skill levels to their classes, leagues and training sessions. It welcomes members and first-timers, helping participants improve their skills and encouraging them to take part in national competitions throughout the year. For the serious competitors, advice on equipment, as well as the gear itself, is available. From Dhs50 per session. Times vary.
Famous practitioners of taekwondo include Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme, so if you feel like you could do as well as them, head down to Dubai Karate Centre. They teach seven different martial arts (including karate, obviously), and taekwondo. The taekwondo coach is Ghulam Sharifi, a six-time UAE Open Taekwondo champion. It’s open to all ages, from five-years-old and up, and it’s tons of fun. Dhs400 a month (12 one-hour sessions). Sun, Tue and Thu, 6.30pm.
If Andy Murray’s win at Wimbledon inspired you to take up tennis, Dubai Tennis Academy has a proven track record of improving its pupils’ game. Some of its younger players have gone on to play college tennis in the US and compete in junior International Tennis Federation tournaments. From Dhs90 per class.
The fastest-growing multi-participant sport in the world, triathlon is big business in Dubai. But go into it under-prepared at your peril. TriDubai supports athletes of all levels and training sessions are free of charge for everyone. Since launch, it has fostered a brilliant community of 4,000 people, the most senior of which volunteer their time throughout the year to help improve technique and race attitude for all. The team also hold seminars with elite competitors, as well as specialist camps. Free. Times and locations vary, check the website for details.
For the properly authentic sandy experience, head to Kite Beach, where numerous courts are free to use on a first-come-first-served basis. But to really hone your skills, the recently-launched AktivNation indoor sports facility is a great place start. Set across 26,000 square feet, it has a number of mixed-use courts that can host games of basketball, football, badminton and street cricket. There are also dedicated sand spaces for beach volleyball, with team bookings and single sign-ups also available. For full-size volleyball, EK Volleyball Club run weekly sessions at Dubai American Academy (www.ekvolleyball.tripod.com). From Dhs150 per hour (beach volleyball), from Dhs100 per hour (volleyball). Open daily 9am-11pm.
With the UAE sending a woman weightlifter to a second successive Games, we should all be inspired to give this most demanding of sports a try. The Barbell Club at Fit Republik will help you learn the basics thanks to its intro to Olympic weightlifting classes that will prepare you nicely for the more advanced sessions. Both Olympic disciplines – the snatch and the clean and jerk – will be taught here, along with ways to avoid injury from over-exertion Dhs7,000 (12-month basic plus one month membership). Times vary.
If you’re blessed with an incredibly bendy and flexible body, then put it through some Olympic-style training at Fit Republik’s weekly Gymnastics classes. The trainer is a former Olympian who is fully equipped with all the requisite accessories, as well as a unique state-of-the-art foam pit (in case you come crashing down). The 60-minute class focuses on strength, stability and agility, where you can expect to practise on the balance beam, parallel bars, pommel horse and the vault. This class is designed for all levels, however previous experience of professional dance and gymnasium work is beneficial. Dhs1,850 (three-month membership) Dhs3,250 (six-month membership). Sun, Tue and Thu 8pm-9pm.
As well as learning freestyle and Greco-Roman styles at Dubai Pro Wrestling, you’ll also learn how to fight WWE-style. Whether you’re a complete beginner, or you want to try out your favourite moves, you can get up in the ring. Dhs100 (one-hour session with founder Caleb Hall or one of the other trainers), Dhs750 (ten sessions). Open daily noon-9pm.