Diego Maradona  has led the array of accolades for Dubai ’s achievement of being named the world’s second best sporting city at the Seventh International Sports Event Management  (ISEM) Awards in London earlier this month.
“I cannot express the joy I feel at such a feat. Maybe we will have to struggle to be number one, but I am sure we will achieve this goal as well,” Maradona told Gulf News on the sidelines of the official press conference of the 4th International Conference âSport versus Crime’.
Maradona was joined by some of the top sporting officials in singing the praises of Dubai for bagging such a prestigious award.
Last year, Dubai was named the third best sports city in the world after London and Melbourne at the end of the annual Sixth ISEM Awards at the Wyndham Grand Hotel, London. Dubai had finished ahead of other top cities in the world including Singapore, Rio de Janeiro, Paris and Dusseldorf, among others.
However, this year the emirate has managed to improve by one spot and taken second place behind London. Auckland in New Zealand was placed third.
The ISEM Awards are the industry’s flagship event which honours sport event management industry leaders for their outstanding performance in the organisation of major sports events.
Other cities in the fray for the awards were Dusseldorf, Germany; Sydney, Australia; Manchester and London in the UK and Istanbul, Turkey.
Secretary General of the Dubai Sports Council Dr Ahmad Sa’ad Al Sharif attended the award gala ceremony in London and received the certificate on behalf of Dubai.
Mattar Al Tayer, Deputy Chairman, DSC, dedicated this achievement to UAE President His Highness Shaikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan; UAE Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum; and Dubai Crown Prince and DSC Chairman, Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.
“We are blessed to have the continuous support of the wise UAE leadership and its vision to develop the sports sector through excellence, innovation and teamwork. Dubai Sports Council’s dossier includes strategies adopted by the emirate to successfully host major international sporting events with superb organisation,” Al Tayer said.
“Our leaders have shown us the way always, and it is under their guidance that the UAE in general and Dubai in particular has established its position as one of the best sporting destinations in the world. I have no doubt that we will be number one in the future,” Yousuf Al Sarkal, President, UAE Football Association, told Gulf News.
“Dubai has proved time and again that we are capable of hosting the best events in the world and this award is only a just recognition of all the efforts put in by everyone starting with our leaders,” he added.
“We are definitely looking forward to claiming number one.”
Salah Tahlak, Tournament Director of the annual Dubai Tennis Championships that features a tournament each on the WTA and ATP Tours, said Dubai should target the number one spot. “I want to be number one in the world. Dubai has been professional in all that we have done in the past and we fully deserve this honour. The winning of Expo 2020 will be the next step for us,” Tahlak said, who is proud of the fact that the Dubai Tennis Championship’s men’s tournament, which takes place in February and is sponsored by Dubai Duty Free, has been voted the âbest tournament’ by the players on the ATP Tour for the past nine years in a row. “In tennis, we’ve done our bit and everyone else in the other sports are doing everything in a professional manner,” Tahlak osaid.
Meanwhile, Golf in Dubai has consistently done Dubai proud by organising some of the top golf tournaments in the world. “The award is a ringing endorsement of Dubai’s unparalleled sporting infrastructure. Many sports have benefitted immensely from Dubai’s vision, creativity and expertise and golf is one of them,” said Mohammad Juma Buamaim, vice-chairman and CEO of âgolf in DUBAi.
“The Omega Dubai Desert Classic and the Omega Dubai Ladies Masters are fondly referred to as the majors of the Middle East, thanks to a first-class field they attract every year. The events can lay claim to being the catalyst that has made the Middle East golfing paradise, not only for professional golfers, but for the thousands of golfing tourists who visit the region to enjoy truly world-class standards on every level, from golf courses to hotels, restaurants and leisure facilities,” he added.
Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum, the UAE’s only Olympic champion following his double-trap shooting gold medal in 2004, also joined in hailing the achievement. “Dubai has been leading many cities all over the world, not just in the field of sport, but in every other field. So this news does not come to me as a surprise. This achievement has come after decades and decades of hard work and it is our leaders who have shown us the way,” Shaikh Ahmad said.
“This award means that there is something right being done at the foundation of sport. It is Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s goal to be always number one. He does not simply say that, but he shows it by personal example. I am convinced that it won’t be long before Dubai bags the number one position,” he added.
“The award tells the world on how the leadership and the public in this country is working on the same track. It is a team effort.”