The fourth World Championships of Beach Ultimate roll into to Dubai on Sunday, with the promise of sea, sand and quality sport at JBR.
Never heard of beach ultimate? Let Pedro Miguel Vargas, director of the Beach Ultimate Lovers Association (BULA), illuminate you….
Q: First things first, what exactly is beach ultimate?
PMV: It is probably best described as a combination of football (soccer), American football, and basketball – played with a flying disc (Frisbee™). It’s a fast-paced game that sees teams of five players trying to catch the disc in the opponent’s endzone (like in American Football). Doing so scores you a point. Whenever the disc is intercepted, touches the ground, or goes out of bounds, the teams switch from defence to offence and vice versa.
Q: How popular is the sport worldwide?
PMV: I believe the sport has reached a critical mass and modern communication makes spreading the advantages of the sport easier. New tournaments quickly learn how to attract players and use that as an ignition point for local set up of games and leagues. The fact that the game is played on the beach also helps with the appeal, and as it is a non-contact sport that relies on self-officiating, it attracts a new type of player that enjoys healthy competition. It is a sport in which fair play is a key element, yet fundamentally it is still has really good physical merits.
Q: The World Championships are coming to Dubai, why was the UAE chosen as host nation?
PMV: In the Middle East, the sport’s popularity is in its early stages and the World Championships is really seen as a catalyst to get it into the public's eye. There are four teams participating from the UAE as well as one national team from Qatar. Considering the abundance of sand and beaches in the region, this is a potential major growth area for beach ultimate. The event will attract 1,100 athletes from 25 countries – it will be a fantastic advert for the sport.
Q: Which countries tend to dominate the beach ultimate scene?
PMV: This is the fourth world championship after Portugal (2004), Brazil (2007) and Italy (2011). Each tournament has various divisions and in Dubai there are seven divisions: open, women, mixed, open masters (age 32+), mixed masters (32+), women masters (30+), and grand masters (40+). USA has ruled in most divisions throughout the years with nine gold medals and other countries such as Austria, Great Britain, Australia, and Germany have each taken five gold medals in total. [For more complete standings, click HERE]
There have been eight ever-present nations at the BULA Beach Ultimate World Championships: Canada, Switzerland, USA, Portugal, Currier Island, Ireland, Great Britain, Germany.
Q: Hold on, Currier Island? That’s not a real place is it?
PMV: You’re right! Currier Island was the brainchild of a couple of guys who wanted to play at the 2004 world championships but didn’t make the U.S team. They wrote to WCBU president Patrick van der Valk claiming they were from this country, Currier Island, and requested an invitation to attend – stating that WCBU could not possibly qualify as a legitimate ‘world’ championships without them. In the spirit of the sport, they were allowed to play and since it has been a team that serves the purpose of hosting players whose countries are not being represented at the event in a particular division. Tt allows everyone an opportunity to take part in the WCBU. There are some caveats surrounding Currier Island’s participation, namely the fact that because is not an official country it is not allowed to access semi-finals (or quarter-finals, depending on the division).
Q: Thanks for clearing that up! Who are the favourites going into this year’s tournament.
PMV: The US teams are seeded first in every division. The Philippines are going to bring some strong squads and they have been practicing a lot under the watchful eye of Tim Morrill, a beach ultimate fitness specialist. Outsiders can be Sweden (mixed), Portugal (mixed), Ireland (mixed), Australia (open, mixed and mixed masters), Canada (all divisions), Germany (all divisions) and Great Britain (all divisions).
Q: Does beach ultimate have ambitions of being an Olympic sport?
PMV: Beach ultimate is potentially going to be included in the first World Beach Games to be held in 2017. For the Olympics it is more likely that our sister sport of grass/field ultimate will be included. It won't happen in the next five years but it is definitely a potential in the 2020s. In 2013, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) granted the World Flying Disc Federation (WFDF) provisional IOC recognition and with recent changes to make the Olympic games more attractive we feel that ultimate can play a role.
Abu Dhabi will host the inaugural Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) World Games this weekend and spectators can experience Irish cultural events first hand.
With 24 teams from across the world descending on to the nation’s capital, the event will be held across Friday and Saturday with a packed schedule at Zayed Sports City.
Nine countries will be represented, with teams from North America, South America, Africa, Europe, Australia, Asia, Argentina, Canada, and the Middle East in the mix over the weekend.
Coinciding with the GAA World Games will be the Middle Eastern GAA Championships, taking place alongside the festivities.
The World Games will feature traditional Irish sports of Gaelic football, hurling, rounders and camoige.
Good luck 2 my dance partner @KyrahTanner & all the Canadians on their way to Abu Dhabi for the World Gaelic Football Games #GAAWorldGames
— Donna Kellway (@DonnaKellway) March 4, 2015
“I am delighted to announce details of another event that underlines the continued internationalisation of our games,” said Liam Ó Néill, president of the GAA.
“The growth of organised championship events around the globe in recent years has been truly staggering and they all occupy their own special place in the GAA calendar.
“I believe that in years to come we will look back on this event as being of huge importance in helping to connect our international units in a way that will become the norm in the future.”
The GAA World Games’ group games, Middle East Hurling League and Middle East Ladies & Men’s Competition will happen on Friday, with the semi-finals and finals on Saturday.
In addition to the top competition, visitors can enjoy family-friendly activities with the evenings’ entertainment consisting of Irish dancing and music.
On Saturday, a skills village will be available for kids with GAA County players from Ireland in attendance, while an underage tournament between teams from the region will run across the age groups U8, U10, U12 and U14.
The closing ceremony and dinner will see the winners presented with medals, All-Star awards and tournament MVPs. Doors will open from 19:00 with tickets costing Dh200.
Admission to the games is free on both days, with Friday getting under way at 09:00 and Saturday starting at 10:00.
Beatrice Cosgrove, Etihad Airways’ general manager Ireland, said: “To host the GAA World Games in our home of Abu Dhabi is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the UAE capital and Etihad Airways to Irish communities around the world as well as promoting Irish commercial
opportunities in the Middle East.
James Kennedy, chairman Middle East GAA Board, added: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be hosting the first GAA World Games. It’s great to have so many teams from across the globe in Abu Dhabi competing for the title of world champions.”
Fans can keep up-to-date with the competition on the free app, Team App, which will have the fixtures, tables and live scores of the weekend’s games. For more information, visit www.gaa.ie.
Whether you’re into traditional Gaelic sports or not, come to experience Irish culture and fun at the first ever GAA World Games.
WHAT: Gaelic Athletic Association World Games
WHERE: Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi
WHEN: Friday, beginning at at 09:00 and Saturday starting at 10:00
Sport360 VERDICT: If you’re unfamiliar with Gaelic games, it will be a weekend of experiencing different culture with plenty of activities for the entire family
CONTACT: For more informatino, visit www.gaa.ie