UAE: High profile NBA games in Abu Dhabi will boost tourism, says official

The games will be held at Etihad Arena on Yas Island


Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Tue 16 Aug 2022, 4:46 PM

Last updated: Thu 18 Aug 2022, 12:08 AM

Abu Dhabi hosting the first ever National Basketball Association (NBA) games in the Gulf region will bolster the UAE Capital’s position as a global sports destination and see thousands of visitors explore this beautiful destination, a top official said.

In just 50 odd days from now, NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will feature the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks play two pre-season games at Etihad Arena on Yas Island. The historic sporting extravaganza will be held as part of the ground-breaking multi-year partnership inked between the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) – Abu Dhabi and the NBA.

Come October, it will be an unmissable week-long celebration of sport, entertainment and culture, with several activities planned across the city, said Saleh Mohamed Al Geziry, Director General of Tourism at DCT – Abu Dhabi.

“At DCT – Abu Dhabi, we have an ambitious sports tourism strategy for the emirate, as we work to create an unbeatable year-round calendar of thrilling sporting events. We pride ourselves on offering unique and innovative experiences, so bringing the NBA to the emirate was a natural and exciting choice for us. Basketball is an exhilarating, high-octane sport that offers spectators intense games packed with non-stop entertainment. It’s a truly international game, with millions of devoted fans in all corners of the world,” Al Geziry told Khaleej Times.

The high-profile event is a “great opportunity” to raise the global profile of Abu Dhabi, said Al Geziry.

“With the eyes of the world firmly focused on the emirate in October, we can show that this is a destination packed with exciting, inspiring and restoring experiences, which offers something for every visitor.”

Al Geziry stressed that visitors to the Capital will enjoy a unique experience and enhance tourism.

“Having thousands of fans converge in Abu Dhabi for this first-in-the-region event will impact the broader tourism ecosystem, with airlines, hotels, attractions, restaurants, and shopping malls all benefiting and offering a great collective atmosphere. Visitors can explore the emirate at their own pace: whether it’s discovering our thrilling theme parks, stunning beaches, or unique cultural attractions and museums.”

While the games will be played on October 6 and 8 at iconic Etihad Arena, Al Geziry highlighted the DCT-NBA partnership is much more than hosting teams and will bring numerous activations to the GCC for the first time, including NBA FIT clinics promoting health and wellness and interactive fan events featuring current and legendary players.

“In October, we will be creating an immersive city-wide experience for fans, with interactive activations in malls, chances to meet basketball legends, and fitness workshops to inspire us to get healthy. These events will increase the popularity of basketball and we look forward to seeing that development continue in the years ahead.”

The official said NBA Abu Dhabi 2022 reinforces shared goals of Abu Dhabi and NBA to grow the game of basketball in the region.

“Hosting world-class sporting events allows us to bring elite international players here to inspire the local population. This helps grow interest in the sport, while motivating young players to hone their talent and follow their dreams. We have already achieved this with many other sports in the region, including golf, football, cricket, motorsports and swimming, and we fully expect basketball to join that list in the coming months and years.”

Earlier, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum had revealed that there are 3 million NBA fans in the UAE. Echoing similar views, Al Geziry said since the announcement of the games, there has been a “surge of anticipation and enthusiasm” in Abu Dhabi.

“The speed at which tickets are selling is testament to the excitement among NBA fans across the country and the region, so this is only the beginning of an explosion in popularity for the sport here in the near future,” Al Geziry noted.

The DCT official noted that basketball has a huge following among many communities in the UAE and thus the DCT aims to foster that, especially at the grassroots level.

“As the UAE is home to more than 200 nationalities and as basketball is a global game, it is an incredibly popular sport here. This is reflected on any of the courts around the city where you often see teams made up of players from multiple countries.”

For years, there have been continued efforts to increase participation in basketball across the region and seen good progress too.

“More than 220 players from the Middle East recently joined the Basketball Without Borders programme, an NBA initiative to develop talent outside the US. Commonly known as the NBA Academy, this year’s intake will include five players from the UAE. Since 2019, the NBA School of Basketball in Dubai has welcomed more than 500 male and female athletes between the ages of six and 18, so the foundations are being laid for something special in the future.”

Since the launch of the Jr. NBA Abu Dhabi League in February 2022, the response has been outstanding, Al Geziry said.

“The enthusiasm shown by the 450 boys and girls who attended, as well as from their family members and friends, was truly inspiring. This electric atmosphere created by the players, coaches and audiences was a glimpse of the junior league’s potential for growth in the coming years. We are committed to the future of the global youth basketball programme, especially as it teaches the fundamental skills and core values of the game – teamwork, respect, determination, and community.”

The NBA Abu Dhabi Games, Al Geziry said, will build on these foundations and help drive interest in basketball even further.

“The NBA Abu Dhabi Games 2022 will undoubtedly be a special and exciting time for basketball fans in the UAE and beyond. We look forward to seeing that development continue around the region in the years ahead,” he added.

Separately, the partnership will see DCT – Abu Dhabi, under ‘Visit Abu Dhabi’ – the tourism promotion initiative of the UAE’s Capital, serve as the official tourism destination partner of the NBA in China, Europe, the Mena region.


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