Friday, February 15, 2013

Now Pretend You're a Horse

Imagine Field Day, the office picnic and a hundred corporate team-building events rolled into one giant activity.  Now implement this activity across the entire country...and you have Sport Day in Qatar.
On Sport Day, normally closed stadiums, arenas, athletic facilities are open.  Activities abound for participant families, kids or just-the-ladies.  Opportunities abound, too, for gate crashing, sight seeing, picture taking non-participants (like us).
What we saw: rock climbing, ball playing, beach combing, a rousing session of "now pretend you're a horse."
kids line up for the opportunity to jump like a horse (with assistance) in the Al Shaqab arena
Sport Day is the brainchild of HH Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Deputy Emir and Heir Apparent of Qatar who, in Emiri Decree No. 80, set aside Tuesday the second week of February each year for sport. Government and private offices are closed. Gyms across the country are legislated open and free to the public "…to allow them practicing sport and gain further knowledge on sport culture." (
Employees of private companies (like Bob and his coworkers) receive letters encouraging participation in the athletic pursuit of their choice.

Employees of public companies receive a list of events in which participation is expected.

In order to celebrate Sport Day with activity I run 6 miles; Bob plays golf and watches the KSU (versus somebody) basketball game via slingbox at 4am at Therese's.
Yes: 4am.
(After Bob's nap) we discover a new (to us) beach where UDC employees play cricket and do sumo wrestling in the sand.
We walk the length of Katara Beach where a mix of companies sponsor picnics, rides in swan-shaped paddle boats, sailboat races.
We tour Education City where Qatar Foundation employees and their families bowl, play table tennis and chess and ride ponies in the architecturally amazing Al Shaqab Equestrian Center.
curving roofs, sloping handrails, electronic doors that open at angles
There is running, walking, soccer, baseball, volleyball, dodge ball, Badminton, Yoga, Zumba and Frisbee.  Basketball, football, ping pong, bicycling, tennis, handball, karate, tug of war, carriage rides, free flights up a water spout. 
A few events are open to the public (advance registration required), but most are exclusively for the sponsoring company's employees.

So, no, we didn't get to play pony.

Still, since it's a national holiday, everyone gets the day off.

Except, of course, for this guy:
And this guy:
rag used to dust handrails
Ahhh, but that's a different blog.
camera on a timer outside Al Shaqab


Peggy said...

What a great idea!! I wonder if there are similar Sports Days in other countries, or even just locales? I'll have to check that out!

Peggy said...

"Health-Sports Day or Sports Day, is a national holiday in Japan held annually on the second Monday in October. It commemorates the opening of the 1964 Summer Olympics being held in Tokyo, and exists to promote sports and an active lifestyle." quote from a news item.
:) Looks like every day is Sports Day some communities in the USA -- but that doesn't come close to your description of Qatar's program.

Lucinda H. Kennaley said...

Hey this is really neat! Thanks for sharing this info!

sheri levy said...

Fascinating!! I would have never thought another country that has so many restrictions could have so much fun. It's awesome!!