Female athletes competing for the first time in upcoming GCC Olympic Games
Does this signal winds of change blowing in the Gulf region?
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Olympic sports competition are underway in Kuwait and, for the first time, female athletes will be participating.
The regional event, first established in 2011, takes place every four years and provides a platform for athletes from member nations – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – to participate in an Olympics-style competition in the region.
The first two GCC Games were held in Bahrain in 2011 and Saudi Arabia in 2015.
This year, the games will feature female participation in six sports including athletics, basketball (3×3), cycling, futsal, e-sports and padel.
The start of competition was delayed to observe three days of mourning for the passing of the United Arab Emirate President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Friday.
According to the GCC Games website, some 2,000 athletes from six GCC countries are competing in 17 different sports, including handball, volleyball, basketball, futsal, swimming, athletics, shooting, karate, judo, tennis, cycling, ice hockey, table tennis, padel and e-sports.
Kuwait’s Supreme Organizing Committee will host the games across 12 facilities, which include the Kuwait Olympic Committee headquarters, conference halls, sports complexes and popular cultural centers.
This year’s opening ceremony – which will be held on May 22, a week after the competition began – will be different and unique and in line with a “new youthful approach that imposes its reality for the first time,” according to Ali Al-Marri, assistant secretary of the Kuwaiti Olympic Committee.
Al-Marri emphasized that the current edition of the games will showcase the participation of both sexes separately for the first time, adding that Saudi women will also participate for the first time, and that the padel sports and video games are making their first appearance at the GCC Games this year.
The last GCC Games took place in 2015, with Saudi Arabia hosting the event in Dammam. The host country topped the ranking with 115 medals, 57 gold, 35 silver and 23 bronze. The UAE came second with a total of 73 medals, Qatar placed third with 59 medals, Bahrain came in fourth with 43 medals, Oman earned fifth place with 29 medals.
The very first GCC Games – four years earlier in 2011 – were hosted by Bahrain in its capital, Manama. Kuwait earned the highest ranking with 41 medals, Qatar came second with 27 medals, Bahrain placed third with 23 medals, the UAE took fourth with 26 medals, Saudi Arabia came in fifth with 32 medals and Oman sixth with 14 medals.