Gulf Youth Games opening ceremony praised by participating delegations. UAE NOC

The much-anticipated opening of the Gulf Youth Games UAE 2024, held at the prestigious Dubai Opera, was met with enthusiasm and forward-looking energy, earning praise and admiration from all participating teams.

Engineer Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi, President of both the Asian and Arab Fencing Federations and a native of the United Arab Emirates, praised the ceremony as a wonderful reflection of the overarching theme of the tournament: "Our Gulf is one, our youth is promising. The profound message it conveys, highlighting the unity and cohesion of the Gulf youth, reaffirms a common destiny."

Engineer Sheikh Salem Bin Sultan Al Qasimi stressed the athletes' vital contribution to the development of sport throughout the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region: "The first Gulf Youth Games reflects the vision of the wise leadership of the UAE, led by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is committed to such initiatives."

Sheikh Suhail Bin Butti Al Maktoum, Executive Director of the Sports Development Sector at the General Sports Authority, said: "The ceremony aptly sets the stage for the inaugural edition of the tournament, which symbolises a sporting union that brings together the youth of the Gulf countries in their second home, the UAE."

"The tournament embodies the directives and commitment of His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai and Chairman of the National Olympic Committee. The focus on the youth underlines its importance and impact, as they represent the future. We wish all the participants every success," he added.

The exciting volleyball competition at the Gulf Youth Games. UAE NOC
The exciting volleyball competition at the Gulf Youth Games. UAE NOC

In the opening week of the tournament, the UAE athletes performed outstandingly and topped the medals table with a remarkable total of 168 medals: 58 gold, 62 silver and 48 bronze. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait followed closely behind with 57 medals each, while Oman, Bahrain and Qatar secured 42, 36 and 21 medals, respectively.

Kholoud Al Dhaheri, a member of the Board of Directors of the National Olympic Committee, said: "The opening ceremony was truly remarkable and sent noble and clear messages to our Gulf youth about the importance of unity, cooperation and reaping the multiple benefits of sport. The tournament serves as a platform for the exchange of experiences among athletes of this age group, fostering camaraderie and mutual understanding." 

"It also provides an invaluable opportunity for the athletes to benchmark their own performance against others in their respective sports disciplines, enabling them to measure their progress and identify areas for improvement," he added.

Nabila Ashour, President of the UAE Handball Federation and Head of the Technical Committee, pointed out: "I would like to stress the importance of the presence of our Gulf sports delegations in their second home, the UAE, which contributed greatly to the success of these spectacular Games."

"The opening ceremony beautifully embodied the values of connectivity through profound words that recalled the vision of the UAE under the late founding leader, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, and the continued directives of our current leader, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE," she added.

A judo bout at the Gulf Youth Games. UAE NOC
A judo bout at the Gulf Youth Games. UAE NOC

Dubai and Sharjah will host 3x3 basketball, karate and archery competitions from 26-28 April. Judo will be held in Abu Dhabi on 27 and 28 April, while fencing will be held in Fujairah on 29 and 30 April. Swimming will be held at various venues in Abu Dhabi from 27 April to 1 May.

His Excellency Jassim Al Budaiwi, Secretary-General of the GCC, congratulated the wise leadership of the UAE for successfully hosting the first Gulf Youth Games: "I extend my heartfelt congratulations and blessings to the wise leadership of the UAE and its brotherly people for hosting the historic inaugural Gulf Youth Games.  This is undoubtedly a significant step forward in the collective efforts of the Gulf and is of paramount importance for the future of Gulf sports".

Eisa Hilal Al Hazami, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council, praised the impeccable organisation and highlighted the sense of responsibility of the UAE's young leaders towards their nation: "With each event, we see new faces among our national leaders and cadres, all driven by love for their homeland and passionate about the country's success."

The final week, with table tennis concluding on Saturday at the Shabab Al-Ahli Club Hall in Dubai, cycling continuing at the Abu Dhabi Cycling Club and golf starting on Friday at the Abu Dhabi Golf and Billiards Club, will see more medals, especially in individual sports such as swimming, karate, archery and fencing, with volleyball finals on Thursday, handball on Friday and esports in Dubai, as well as triathlon at the Ajman Police Officers Club, adding to the excitement.