The year in sport

We remember a few of the past year’s ups and downs, with commentaries from the city’s sporting luminaries.

2008 – We got excited about…

ICC move to sports city August
OK, so we were more surprised than excited when the International Cricket Council announced it would be moving its headquarters from London to Dubai back in 2005, given that cricket is not yet a major sport in the Gulf. But this year it was finalised that the council will be putting up permanent digs in Dubai Sports City from March or April of next year. Douglas Griebenow of E-Sports Cricket Academy shared his scepticism with us: ‘This will bring awareness to the area regarding cricket, but in terms of what it will do for cricket development locally and on a grassroots level, I think it will be minimal.’
E-Sports Cricket Academy offers 10-week professional coaching packages for four-to-16 year olds. Phone 050 361 1547; www.esportsdubai.com

Legends ‘Rock’ Dubai November 19-22
Despite a last-minute dropout by tennis’s wildman, Goran Ivanisevic, the turnout wasn’t rocked by the loss as Stefan Edberg stepped in to take Ivanisevic’s place in this tournament of retired tennis greats. After three days, winner Jim Courier and Stefan Edberg faced each other in the final in what Austin Varghese, head coach at Clark Francis Tennis, described as a one-sided match. ‘Edberg played so well in the semi-finals, but just didn’t pull it out in the final,’ he explained. ‘It was a really good match, Jim Courier’s forehands and backhands were so good and he played well from the baseline. It was like a remake of that Wimbledon game between the two players 10 years ago, but Edberg just didn’t come up with one of his best matches.’
Clark Francis Tennis offers one-on-one and group tuition at The Aviation Club and Grand Hyatt. Call 04 282 4540 or see www.cftennis.com

Dubai RUGBY Sevens
November 28-29

This year heralded the launch of the new Sevens stadium, built to house the city’s various sports teams and the Rugby Sevens World Cup. The Emirates Dubai Sevens event in November hosted huge crowds for the first major event at the new ground. South Africa walked away winners in the international games, following a try in the final seconds against England by Ryno Benjamin to break the 12-12 tie. As James Wellings of Dubai Dragons put it, ‘That’s the kind of tension any tournament wants.’

Dubai Dragons’ first team picked
up the Gulf Men’s Trophy: ‘We took it 41-12 against a very decent Dubai Exiles side in the final,’ said Wellings. ‘We’ve been very lucky with the new people we’ve got in this year. It was one of the trophies we definitely wanted..’

Wellings also praised the new ground as a landmark for local sport: ‘We were amazed it was ready when it was. We’ve been training up there since last April when it was just a pitch and a portacabin,’ he explained. ‘We couldn’t believe it when we got in there; we were so impressed.’

For info on how to train with the Dubai Dragons, visit www.dragonsrugbydubai.com

2009 – We’re excited about…

Dubai Sports City
Various dates

With developments springing up around us, Dubai Sports City has been slightly lost in the hype. To recap, there will be five major sports venues dotted around a 50million sq ft site. Developers say the courses and programmes will begin at the various the on-site sporting academies some time in 2009, while we’ve been promised international events in the cricket and hockey stadiums in the first half of the year. Visit www.dubaisportscity.com

Dubai World Cup March
Nad Al Sheba says goodbye to Dubai’s most famous sporting event. After Curlin won last year, commentator Terry Spargo predicts 2009 will be another good year. ‘It’s a bit early to start picking out potential winners,’ he tells us. ‘We’ve got no real idea who’s coming yet, but we are definitely expect-ing that the best jockeys and horses in training will come. We’re looking for representation from all over the world.’ www.dubaiworldcup.com

East Coast Classic October/November
The UAE’s first ever big-game fishing competition is being hosted at the Le Méridien Al Aqah in Fujairah. Over three days, anglers will search out yellowfin tuna, sailfish and dorado. Organiser Intevents also handles Oman’s Sinbad Classic fishing event, which is a leader in sustainable sports. Rods at the ready, we’ll be heading to the East Coast.
Details to be finalised. Watch this space for updates. To register for the Sinbad Classic in Muscat (February 18) visit www.sinbadclassic.com

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