Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness The Ruler of Sharjah, Chairperson of Sharjah Women’s Sports (SWS), officially inaugurated the much-anticipated 7th edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament (AWST) on Friday.
The opening ceremony, held at Al Majaz Amphitheatre in Sharjah, commenced with the raising of flags representing 15 Arab countries, signaling the commencement of the largest women’s sports event in the Arab world.
The 7th edition features the participation of 560 athletes and 63 teams from 15 Arab countries, competing across 8 sports until February 12.
The ceremony began with the raising of the flags of AWST as well as the Arab National Olympic Committees, and the Arab League by Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Higher Steering Committee for AWST, HE Abdulaziz Al-Anazi, Secretary-General of the Arab National Olympic Committees, and Faisal Ghassal, member of the Oversight and Follow-up Committee at the Arab National Olympic Committees.
The opening ceremony showcased a parade of delegations and women sports teams from Jordan, Bahrain, Algeria, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Egypt, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Yemen and the United Arab Emirates, proudly raising their national flags, symbolising unity and sportsmanship.
The ceremony proceeded with the athletes taking the athletes’ oath, led by Al Yazia Al Suwaidi, a prominent basketball player at the Sharjah Women Sports Club and a member of the UAE Basketball National team. All participating athletes echoed the oath in unison. Following this, the referees’ oath was administered by Raja Khalid Faisal, who serves as the Chairman of the Referees Committee in the Shooting Union Federation, representing all referees overseeing the games.
Human values are a top priority
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Wife of His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, welcomed the audience and athletes, stating, “Greetings to you in the Emirate of Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates, your second home that embraces your sporting talents and celebrates your victories. We recognize that each one of you came to Sharjah carrying a dream that you set for yourself, and an ambition that takes you to various sports arenas to compete, win medals, and carry your country’s name on the stages of victory.”
Addressing the sportswomen, Her Highness offered guidance: “My daughters, I encourage you to demonstrate true sportsmanship, to respect your opponents, and to foster solidarity and cooperation among yourselves. Remember, human values are a constant priority in all circumstances and competitions, so do not allow selfishness to find its way to you. You are ambassadors for your families, communities, and nations. Because we are committed to supporting your aspirations to reach the stages of victory, the tournament organizing team has ensured all arrangements to facilitate your training and preparations, with anticipation of your athletic brilliance. We have confidence in the organizing team that has shown significant efforts to provide the necessary resources and an environment that nurtures your spirit of challenge and competition.”
Her Highness emotionally recalled the story of Nagham, a Palestinian girl who symbolised perseverance and determination: “We must align our goals with our ambitions. However, we live in a time where conflicts and hostilities have escalated into devastating wars, costing human lives and their dreams. Take, for instance, Nagham Abu Samra, a girl from Gaza. A Palestinian karate champion, Nagham set her sights on her goals and participated in championships. Tragically, her journey was cut short by an airstrike that resulted in the amputation of her leg. Nagham later became a martyr after attempts to treat and save her. Her story makes us wonder, how many ‘Naghams’ exist in our world today or have lived?”
Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher Al Qasimi concluded, “We thank the organizing team of the tournament, which was led by Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, for their efforts in putting together the seventh edition of this tournament. With the blessings of God, we declare the start of the seventh edition of the Arab Women Sports Tournament 2024.”
The opening ceremony was attended by Sheikh Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of AWST Higher Steering Committee for AWST; Sheikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa, Chairwoman of the Equal Opportunities and Gender Equality Committee at the Arab National Olympic Committees; HE Hilal Al Hazami, Chairman of the Sharjah Sports Council; HE Hanan Al Mahmoud, Vice Chairman of the Higher Steering Committee for AWST; and HE Abdulaziz Al Anzi, the Secretary-General of the Arab National Olympic Committees.
Also present were the President of the Tunisian National Olympic Committee, HE. Maherz Boussian, and Eng. Sherif El-Erian, the Secretary-General of the Egyptian Olympic Committee, along with the members of the Board of Directors of the UAE Olympics Committee, and the Secretary-General of the Committee, HE Fares Al Mutawa, as well as the heads and general secretaries of various sports federations in the UAE, and a number of senior officials from sports federations and representatives of government entities and private companies from within and outside the UAE.
An Arab tournament in spirit, values, and goals
In his speech, Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Chairman of the Higher Organising Committee, articulated the collective effort behind the event: “Today’s achievements are the culmination of an entire emirate’s effort, guided by His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, and the support of his wife, Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, Chairperson of SWS. The community of the emirate has historically been a fertile ground for every developmental project.”
He elaborated: “In Sharjah, we work as a unified team, sharing a common vision and harmonious practices, and together we celebrate our accomplishments. When we speak of the AWST’s successes, it encompasses the clubs, Arab teams, and every institution and administration involved. This championship, as envisioned, embodies Arab spirit and values, Arab results and achievements, and is guided by Arab objectives. On one side, it elevates the status and role of Arab women, affirming their presence in competitive arenas. On the other, it bolsters the Arab sports sector, especially women’s sports, contributing to societal development and invigorating the sports movement, which is an integral aspect of the developmental agenda of any nation.”
Golden opportunity for Arab women
On her part, Sheikha Hayat bint Abdulaziz Al Khalifa spoke on behalf of His Royal Highness Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al Faisal, President of the Arab National Olympic Committees, and expressed gratitude for the unwavering support from His Highness, the Executive Office, and the General Secretariat of the Arab National Olympic Committees. She highlighted the pride they all share in hosting the Arab Women Sports Tournament, considering it a crucial element in fostering camaraderie among sisterly nations in the Arab world.
Sheikha Hayat said, “AWST not only aligns with our shared goals and aspirations but also underscores the commitment to empowering women in sports. We also cherish the volume of participation in this distinguished Arab sports event, under the gracious patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Jawaher bint Mohammed Al Qasimi, may God protect her. This tournament embodies Her Highness’s vision for promoting women in sports and empower their abilities to contribute and excel.”
The opening ceremony featured a short film highlighting all aspects of the tournament and its objectives. In addition, there was a Taekwondo sports demonstration performed by 20 Korean athletes from the Korean Taekwondo Federation, along with artistic light shows celebrating AWST, the region’s most significant women’s sports event.
The 7th edition of AWST, spanning 12 days, will see athletes competing in basketball, volleyball, table tennis, shooting, archery, athletics, karate, and fencing. Today (Saturday), the tournament marks the start of the first volleyball, basketball, and fencing competitions.