The fourth – and largest – edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) was inaugurated today at the Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah, taking place under the patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, wife of His Highness Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of the Sharjah Supreme Committee for Family Affairs and Chairperson of the Sharjah Women Sports Foundation. Themed ‘The World Is Your Court – Together Victorious’, the tournament is hosting 68 clubs from 16 countries and 1,000 athletes and administrative personnel taking part – a 70% increase on the last edition.Organised by the Sharjah Women’s Sports Foundation, the eleven-day event runs from February 2-12, where the athletes will compete in nine sports, namely; basketball, volleyball, table tennis, fencing, archery, shooting, athletics, show-jumping and for the very first time Karate.
Many senior personalities, heads of Arab sports committees and guests from the Arab world attended the opening ceremony, most notably; Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Media Corporation; Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Chairperson of the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq), Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Head of the Supreme Organising Committee at AWST, His Royal Highness Prince Talal bin Abdulaziz, Chairperson of the Arab Sports Council and Chairperson of Union of Arab National Olympic Committees (UANOC), His Excellency Sheikh Isa bin Rashid Al Khalifa, Sheikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, Head of the AWST Supervisory Committee, Supreme Council for Youth and Sports Second Deputy Chairman, Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz, President of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports; and Her Royal Highness Princess Haifa bint Mohammed bin Saud Al Saud, Director General of the Saudi Federation for Community Sports and Shaikha Shamsa Bint Hasher Bin Mana Al Maktoum, the UAE Volleyball Association (VA) board of directors' member.Prominent Ministers who also attended the ceremony included: Her Excellency Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi was appointed as the UAE Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development, Her Excellency Hessa bint Essa Buhumaid has been appointed as the UAE Minister of Community Development, and His Excellency Khalid Abdulaziz, His Excellency Khalid Abdulaziz, Egyptian Minister of Youth and Sports and Head of the Executive Office of the Arab Ministers of Youth and Sports Council.
Attending senior officials also included Major General Mohammed Khalfan bu Romaithi, Chairman of the General Authority, Deputy General Commander of Abu Dhabi Police, Her Excellency Nada Askar Al Naqbi, Deputy Head of the Supreme Organising Committee at AWST, Head of her Executive Committee and Director General of the Sharjah Women Sports Foundation, Engineer Sherif Al Aryan, Secretary General of Egyptian Olympics Committee and Nour El Sherbini, Egyptian world squash champion, as well as a mass of spectators who filled the amphitheatre at Khalid Lagoon.The ceremony began with a welcoming note by famous television and sports personality Mostafa Al Agha, who addressed the attendees and female athletes congratulating them and Sharjah for another symbolic milestone in the history of women in sports, which is participating in the 4th AWST 2018. The ceremony went on with the UAE National Anthem, and a recitation of verses from the Holy Quran, followed by a citation of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, may God have mercy upon him, and the raising of the flags of the 16 participating countries.
The audience watched a video about the tournament before the teams entered and the tournament was declared officially underway.Representatives of the athletes, referees and judges took the athletic oath expressing their commitment to honest and fair competition as well as a true sense of integrity. In his opening address, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad bin Sultan Al Qasimi welcomed all Arab competitors and guests to Sharjah, sharing the message of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, saying: “Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi’s thoughts share an immense pride towards what Sharjah has accomplished in its dedicated care and support towards the women in sports.”He continued: “Her Highness extends her sincere gratitude to all the organisers, guests and athletes whose honor and fair play elevates the names of their associations and clubs. Her hope rests with all the best of results to all participants, knowing that together you can lead by example in success.”Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmed Al Qasimi continued to commemorate the significance behind the 4th AWST event, saying: “As the fourth edition of AWST begins, in line with Sharjah’s strategic vision that was established under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council Ruler of Sharjah, and his wife Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, this event exemplifies the ongoing efforts to not only elevate women in sports, but also to empower them at all levels and in all fields.”
“The tournament highlights the fundamental role of women in leading change in our region, and in creating a significant shift in terms of progress, culture and development in the Arab world. The athletes that bring us together today are instrumental in building a generation of female leaders who believe in their capabilities,” he added.“The UAE is enabling women to broaden their horizons without compromise and as this edition of the tournament is inaugurated today, the Emirate of Sharjah will become a true capital of Arab women in sports. Each match, contest, competition and challenge raises the status of female athletes and highlights their ability to represent their countries in other world-class international events as role models and ambassadors of Arab women,” he added.
For her part, Sheikha Hayat Al Khalifa underscored that the efforts of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi in leading the support and development of Arab women in sports has contributed significantly to the Arab sports industry and has strengthened the sportsmanship among our Arab neighbours. She said: “AWST 2018 reflects the growth of the female sports industry across the Arab region, and the significant attention and support it has received from female athletes and sports associations across the region. This year, AWST celebrates the addition of a new game, totalling the number of sports to 9, and celebrates being environmentally friendly, all initiatives to create a competitive and clean sports atmosphere for all players.”Representatives of the participating delegations expressed their appreciation to Sharjah for organising the largest event of its kind in the Arab world and commended the efforts of the management and the organisers.