Abu Dhabi: the new-age definition of a sports hub

As the capital of the United Arab Emirates, the city of Abu Dhabi is considered one of the most prominent cities in the world.

A glitzy and stylish, modern city, Abu Dhabi’s glamour is world-renowned and in recent times, the multitude of major sporting events have only added to the glamour quotient.

The city has played an active role in bringing, and organising flawlessly, multiple world-class sports events as it strives to build a strong desire for healthy lifestyle in its young community.

Formula 1, golf, football and tennis have adorned the Abu Dhabi sporting calendar for much of the previous decade, some even longer than that. Let’s take a look at them:

Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix

The traditional season-ender of the global festival that is Formula 1, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is known to be one of the most-anticipated races in the F1 calendar.

First held in 2009, the Yas Marina Circuit – known for its anti-clockwise layout – has seen legends of the sport like seven-time world champions Michael Schumacher and Lewis Hamilton race its streets.

It also played host to the dramatic 2016 title decider, where Nico Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 crown, and shocked the world by announcing his retirement soon after.

A scenic marvel, especially the hotel section a few corners before the final turn, Yas Marina undoubtedly hosts one of the most glamorous sporting events in the world and will continue to do so in the coming years.

Abu Dhabi Golf Championship

Considered one of the most prestigious events in the world, the 2021 edition of the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship, beginning on January 21, will kickstart the European Tour this season.

Known for its lush and smooth greens, the 18-hole Abu Dhabi Golf Course attracts some of the high-profile fields among any event as the likes of current world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, reigning Olympic champion Justin Rose and legends like Phil Mickelson, Rory Mcllroy and Miguel Angel Jimenez have all played here.

In 2019, it was included in the ‘Rolex Series’, making it one of the premier events on the European Tour and oozes class, generating big interest and large crowds every time it is in town.

Abu Dhabi Open

Ever since its inaugural edition in 2009, the Abu Dhabi Open has been a fixture on the tennis calendar with its hard-court offerings on par with some of the best-known tournaments in the world.

The courts at the Abu Dhabi International Tennis Complex have been glitzed up by modern-day greats Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova.

It recently held its 2021 edition – when it became part of the women’s Tour as a WTA 500 event – with Aryna Sabalenka taking home the title.

Asian Cup Football

It was only fitting that a football-mad nation would host the premier continental football tournament on its turf and that is exactly what happened when the 2019 edition of the AFC Asian Cup was held in three venues in Abu Dhabi.

No stranger to hosting global football events – Abu Dhabi has earlier held the FIFA Club World Cup and the FIFA Under-17 World Cup among others – the Asian Cup was the most cherished.

There was further joy for the hosts as UAE knocked out reigning champions Australia in the quarter-finals of the 2019 Asian Cup before falling in the semis to eventual champions Qatar.

With a combined capacity of more than 90,000 in three venues – Zayed Sports City Stadium, Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium, and the Al Nahyan Stadium – Abu Dhabi provides some of the most electric atmospheres seen in world football.

FIFA Club World Cup

After its inception in 2000, it didn’t take long for the FIFA Club World Cup to head to Abu Dhabi. The city first organised the tournament in 2009, which was won by FC Barcelona, and then in 2010 where Internazionale lifted the trophy. Abu Dhabi then co-hosted the event with Al Ain in 2017 and 2018, both won by Real Madrid. The Zayed Sports City Stadium and the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium were once again the venues of choice.

Many football superstars have graced Abu Dhabi as a result including Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

Apart from these, Abu Dhabi has also played host to the Special Olympics, rugby, judo, basketball and volleyball over the years which showcases its diverse nature.

Abu Dhabi T10

And to add icing on top of the sporting cake comes The Abu Dhabi T10, the world’s premier competition of cricket’s fastest format. It is the only 10-over cricket tournament to be sanctioned by the International Cricket Council (ICC) and is licensed by the Emirates Cricket Board (ECB).

In the two seasons held in Abu Dhabi, the tournament has been graced by global superstars like Chris Gayle, Yuvraj Singh, Shane Watson, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo. A brainchild of visionary businessman Nawab Shaji Ul Mulk, the tournament has been backed by several legendary cricketers, including the swashbuckling Virender Sehwag.

More big names of the cricket world will take the field in the latest edition of The Abu Dhabi T10, which starts on January 28 at the city’s very own Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium. Eight teams will be participating in the latest edition to play a total of 29 matches. With three games a day on schedule for most part of the tournament, audiences can witness 66 talented cricketers in action daily.