National pride drives Emiratis to volunteer roles

DUBAI - Emiratis are driven by a sense of national pride and a moral obligation to serve and give back to their country when they answer the call for volunteers at major sporting events, research initiated by FIA vice president Mohammed bin Sulayem has shown.

UAE nationals who came forward to work as marshals for the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix also displayed a strong desire to act as role models for youngsters by doing something they considered to be worthwhile.

By comparison, the strongest motivation for expatriate volunteers was their great love of motorsport and a desire to be as close as possible to the Formula One action.

These were some of the main findings of a study on motorsport volunteerism in the UAE. The study was based on research carried out during the inaugural 2009 F1

Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, and the findings were used to recruit and train a team of UAE-based marshals for the 2010 event held at Yas Marina Circuit last month.

The report was made public on Wednesday to coincide with another initiative by Sulayem, also the president of the Automobile and Touring Club of the UAE, resulting last week in the establishment of a joint UAE/Ulster motor sport research centre at the University of Ulster in Jordanstown, Northern Ireland.

One of the aims of the centre is to attract UAE-based candidates to undertake research degrees at Master and PhD level, and volunteerism, and other specific aspects of Middle East motor sport, is potential research subjects. Full details can be obtained on The volunteerism research findings will be used as part of long term plans by the ATCUAE in conjunction with Abu Dhabi Motorsport Management to establish a permanent pool of UAE-based motorsport marshals. “This is vital to allow us to become self-sufficient and achieve sustainability to service the growing needs of motorsport in our country,” said Sulayem.

While the UAE has been a regional leader in motorsport for more than 30 years, the development of Yas Marina Circuit, and the Grand Prix, presented challenges in a number of areas.

One of the biggest was to go from the traditional need of 150 trained officials for a major rally or race to more than 700, which are required for the Grand Prix in a country where volunteerism in sport is a relatively new phenomenon, particularly among Emiratis.

While 350 marshals were recruited from the UK for the 2009 Grand Prix, the rest were made up of expatriates and Emiratis. In order to establish what motivated the UAE-based volunteers, Sulayem secured the services of a world leader in the research of volunteerism in sport.

Professor Ethan Strigas of Indiana State University in the US teamed up with Abu Dhabi Higher Colleges of Technology as the domestic academic research partner to work alongside the ATCUAE management team on the project. The aim was to examine the primary motives that influence volunteers to offer their services, time and expertise at motorsport events and to help the ATCUAE develop strategies to recruit volunteers, especially Emiratis.

Research showed the most significant motivation for Emirati volunteers was “the obligation to serve and/or give back to their country and society, the strong desire to act as role models for youngsters doing something they consider to be worthwhile, their compliance with religious norms and sense of national pride”.

By comparison, expatriate marshals were chiefly attracted by a desire to be part of history when Abu Dhabi staged a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time. While expatriates were largely devoted Formula One fans, the connection to motorsport for the Emirati volunteers was “rather of a temporary nature”, and stronger when the sport is at the centre of the media attention.

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