UAE skateboarding scene is growing by leaps and bounds: Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed

The games' governing body is delighted to put Aljada and Sharjah on the map as global destinations for professionals



Keegan Palmer. Photos: Supplied
Keegan Palmer. Photos: Supplied
by

Joydeep Sengupta

Published: Tue 24 Jan 2023, 1:49 PM

Last updated: Tue 24 Jan 2023, 1:50 PM

Khaleej Times caught up with the Saudi Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed bin Talal Al Saud, who is the Vice-Chairman of Arada to know more about the two qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics, which will be held between January 29 and February 12.

Edited excerpts from an exclusive interview:

Why is the interest in skateboarding?

Skateboarding is a rapidly growing sport in the UAE and across the world, and was introduced to the Olympics for the first time in 2020. Why is it so popular? For lots of reasons – it’s a great workout, it’s not expensive, it helps your reflexes, builds up your confidence, is easy to learn and also can be enjoyed by all ages.

We’ve noticed how skateboarding has caught on in the region and decided that this sport could play a really important role in one of our communities, Aljada, which is based in Sharjah. The Aljada Skate Park has received incredibly positive reviews right the way from locals in the skateboarding scene through to the world’s best-known skaters, who have been testing out the park in recent weeks ahead of the World Championships, starting January 29.

Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, Vice Chairman of Arada, Sabatino Aracu, Chairman of World Skate, Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Group CEO of Arada
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, Vice Chairman of Arada, Sabatino Aracu, Chairman of World Skate, Ahmed Alkhoshaibi, Group CEO of Arada

Can you tell us more about Aljada Skate Park?

Aljada Skate Park is not just the biggest park in the Middle East — more importantly it’s the most creative and best-designed. The whole complex is located on a 90,000 square foot area, spread over six separate parks, including street and park sections that comply with Olympic standards.

These include a whole range of features taken from some of the most famous parks in the world, from the US to Australia, and including the Ariake Urban Sports Park in Tokyo where the Olympic Games were held. There’s something for every skater, with beginner section and intermediate sections as well as the pro phase of the park.

It's the ideal place for skaters of all ages to have the freedom to enjoy and express themselves in a safe, purpose-built environment. This approach is in line with Arada’s overarching aim, which is to deliver communities that have truly world-class facilities that inspire both residents and visitors.

Aljada complex
Aljada complex

What are the Skateboarding World Championships?

Arada has partnered with the World Skate, the international governing body for skating, to organise two skateboarding qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics at Aljada Skate Park. We’re proud to be hosting the world’s best skateboarders to take part in the Street 2022 World Championships, which will take place between January 29 and February 5, followed by the Park 2022 World Championships, which is happening between 5 and 12 February. It's actually quite rare to have Olympic qualifying events taking place in the UAE, so this helps to put Sharjah on the map as a regional hub for this rapidly expanding sport.

It is the first time that a competitive pro-skating event at this level has ever been held in the Middle East and the two World Championships join a list of prominent sporting tournaments and events that have come to the UAE in recent years. Athletes wishing to compete in the next Olympics must earn ranking points to qualify by taking part in a limited number of events, which makes the Sharjah competitions a vital stop on the road to Paris 2024.

Vincent Milou
Vincent Milou

Why are you starting with the World Championships?

Although the pro-phase of the park has only just been completed, the Aljada Skate Park is already a popular destination for the UAE’s skating scene. We hold weekly events for the local community, with cash prizes on offer. Aljada Skate Park has quickly become the focal point for local boarders, with skaters coming from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and even across the Arabian Gulf.

With the World Championships, we’re delighted to support this rapidly growing sport in the UAE and put Aljada and Sharjah on the map as a global destination for professional skateboarding.

These championship qualifiers offer our communities the opportunity to see world’s top professionals up close in an impressive new skate park, while allowing the UAE’s skating athletes the opportunity to participate, see and learn from the world’s top professionals up close.

What’s your ultimate goal for Aljada Skate Park?

Apart from offering skaters an exciting safe place to exercise, what we’re really hoping for is that this facility will contribute to the development of the sport here, as well as the rise of world-class athletes from the UAE and the rest of the region.

We’re seeing some great local talent, who are impressively engaged in the championships. It would be great to see a skater from this part of the world standing on the podium at an Olympic Games in the future, and Aljada Skate Park is exactly the kind of facility that can allow this to happen.

As Arada, one of our goals as a master developer is to engage residents and visitors at our communities in active, healthy living and the Aljada Skate Park is just one of the ways we’re doing this. Wellfit, our fitness brand, is already running Dubai’s largest integrated gyms, blending creativity and technology in well-designed environments to help people live happy and fulfilling lives.

Isn’t the skateboarding community relatively small for such a massive park?

The UAE skateboarding community is currently small but consistently developing, with over 2,000 active skateboarders, including a mixture of experienced skaters and those who are new to the culture.

We’ve seen skateboarding grow from strength to strength in other parts of the world, and it’s clearly growing in the Middle East too, but we think there’s a lot more to come, which we’ve seen from the popularity of our weekend events.

And it’s not all about skateboarding here at Aljada; we opened recently a complex for padel courts, and we are building Sharjah’s largest fitness centre, just next to the park, and there are a number of fitness centres, studios and cycling and running tracks within the residential districts within Aljada.

Championships

Skateboarding World Championships to be held in Sharjah for Paris 2024 Summer Olympic qualifiers

The best skateboarders on the planet will be heading to the UAE later this month after governing body World Skate confirmed that two qualifying events for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics will be held at the Aljada Skate Park, a world-class facility recently opened in Sharjah.

Held back-to-back, the two Road to Paris events consist of the Street 2022 World Championships, which will take place between January 29 and February 5, followed by the Park 2022 World Championships, which will be held between February 5 and 12.

Both events are being co-organised by World Skate and UAE-based master developer Arada and will help to cement Sharjah’s position as a new regional hub for this rapidly expanding sport.

Alex Mizruov.
Alex Mizruov.

It is the first time that a competitive pro-skating event at this level has ever been held in the Middle East and the two World Championships join a list of prominent sporting tournaments and events that have come to the UAE in recent years. Athletes wishing to compete in the next Olympics must earn ranking points to qualify by taking part in a limited number of events, which makes the Sharjah competitions a vital stop on the road to Paris 2024.

Invitees include the most famous male and female skaters in the park discipline including Australia’s Keegan Palmer, Brazil’s Pedro Barros, the United States’ (US) Cory Juneau, Japan’s Sakura Yosuzumi and Kokona Hiraki and the United Kingdom’s (UK) Sky Brown. Invited street specialists include Jagger Eaton from the US, Brazil’s Kelvin Hoefler, Japan’s Momiji Nishya, Funa Nakayama and Yuto Horigome, and Rayssa Leal from Brazil.

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