This event gives sports tourism in Oman a big boost

Oman Wednesday 12/December/2018 21:49 PM
By: Times News Service
This event gives sports tourism in Oman a big boost

Muscat: The first ever OMAN by UTMB has been hailed as a huge success in making a significant contribution to the Sultanate’s ongoing national economic diversification programme.
The inaugural event saw 326 ultra-trail athletes from 52 countries set off from Birkat Al Mouzon on November 29 to take on a 137km challenge that included 13 villages along the heights of Jebel Al Akhdar.
By the time joint winners Jason Schlarb and Diego Pazos finished arm-in-arm a little less than 21 hours later, OMAN by UTMB had made an indelible impression on all those who took part or witnessed the iconic event. This included a strong contingent of 47 local Omanis, with female runners Hamida Al Jabri and Nadhira Al Harthy and six others reaching the finish line – Hamdan Al Khatri, Mohammed Al Maharbi, Khusaif Al Zakwani, Ahmed Al Hinai, Omar Hassan and Hamed Al Harthi.
One of the recognised names in the ultra-trail community, Schlarb himself, commented: “The course was unbelievably challenging – technical and exciting all at once. The people were hugely inviting and wonderful, shaking my hand, it was great.”
Catherine Poletti, co-founder of the UTMB organisation, which franchised the event to Oman, added: “We would like to warmly congratulate the organising team, because the result, as you will certainly agree, is amazing. I am sure the next edition of OMAN by UTMB, which will welcome many more runners and challenges, will surprise you. OMAN by UTMB has already become a must-do event in the trail running calendar.”
Trail running is one of the fastest growing sports in the world, with an estimated 15 million registered regular runners taking part in thousands of events, with UTMB, the leading and highest-profile organisation.
The sports tourism programme, overseen by the Ministry of Tourism and the Implementation Support and Follow-up Unit, identified trail-running as ideally suited to contribute to diversification and in-country value, specifically within its objective to drive long-term inbound tourism through sustainable events and global media distribution.
In turn, this would create new jobs and skill requirements, provide opportunities to local athletes and generate grassroots participation.
“As the organisation commissioned to deliver the OMAN by UTMB, the event has proved to be a great fit for both Oman Sail and the goals set by the sports tourism and diversification project,” said Oman Sail CEO David Graham. “It allowed us to showcase Oman’s great natural beauty and warm culture to a large and growing sector of the tourism market, one which we had targeted. It was also an event that was delivered using the Sultanate’s current infrastructure, and will provide a long-term legacy that will drive year-round tourism and in-country benefits. In short, OMAN by UTMB ticked all the boxes.”
Significant contribution
It was a view echoed by Salim Al Mamari, Director General of Tourism Promotion at the Ministry of Tourism, who said: “Our role in the programme is to assess the impact of a wide range of projects, and it is clear that OMAN by UTMB has made a significant contribution to the development of the sports tourism sector. as well as benefitted local communities and businesses.”
The Oman Sail team worked closely with local groups and government representatives to plan and improve the route, while creating a legacy that will keep it open as a tourism attraction and a local asset to the future.
A total of 170 volunteers, of whom 100 came from Birkat Al Mouz, Jebel Al Akhdar and Al Hamra, contributed to the work, which included the installation of 22,000 reflective markers along the course, which will remain open for trail runners, hikers and trekkers. In addition, the Al Hamra Sports Club was renovated for the event and will stay open for community use.
To prepare the route for runners, the technical team manually created or improved 100km of the trail, with the vast majority of the work being restoring traditional routes between villages. The trail now forms a year-round trekking route through Jebel Akhdar, connecting it with Jebel Shams.
Oman Sail has paid tribute to the impressive collective effort in support of the event from the Ministry of Defence, the Ministry of Sports Affairs, the Ministry of Tourism, the Ministry of Information, the Royal Army of Oman, the Royal Air Force of Oman and the Royal Oman Police. Also recognised and thanked were the Governor of Dakhiliyah, the Wali of Nizwa, the Wali of Al Hamra, the Deputy Wali of Nizwa in Jebel Akhdar, the Al Shura members of this region, the Al Hamra Sports Club, and official supporters AlilaJebel Al Akhdar, Garmin and Bahwan Projects and Telecoms.