With reporting from Mai Akkad
As Qatar shores up its sports culture, it has also been working to improve the health of residents, infamously known as some of the fattest people on Earth.
One relatively new initiative is a public holiday called National Sport Day, in which residents are encouraged to dedicate a day that they’d normally be working to getting fit and being outdoors.
The National Sport Day website is pretty comprehensive, but we sifted through it to help you find some of the best events on offer.
Here’s a brief guide to get you started on what you need to know for NSD 2013.
When is National Sport Day, and what’s it all about?
NSD will be held this year on Tuesday, Feb. 12.
In 2011, the Emir declared each second Tuesday of February National Sport Day, an official holiday that public and private companies are required to observe. Residents celebrated the day for the first time last year, and though dozens of activities were planned, a lot of people reportedly spent the day off sleeping in.
This year’s National Sport Day mascots – Khazaz and Odaynah.
This year, the festivities have been planned months in advance, with signage, press conferences, giveaways and other activities drumming up excitement for the main events. There are even activities for single male working-class folks.
UPDATE: The Emiri Diwan has officially announced that National Sport Day, which falls on Feb. 12 this year, is a public holiday, so expect the following to be closed on Tuesday: ministries, other government departments, public institutions and authorities, Qatar Central Bank and banks operating under its supervision, Qatar Financial Markets Authority and Qatar Securities Company.
According to the Peninsula, Hamad Medical Corp. will continue operations as usual, but outpatient clinics at Rumailah Hospital, Women’s Hospital, National Center for Cancer Care and Research, Al Khor Hospital, Heart Hospital and Al Wakra Hospital will be closed.
What kinds of things are going on this year?
Major activities are planned at all of Doha’s hotspots, though not all of them will be open to the public. But many options are, including at:
The Corniche: There will be a “Walk for All” at 1pm from Orry the Oryx to the Sheraton. Participants can register onsite. Music will be playing, entertainers will perform and volunteers will be giving out water and fruit to keep walkers energized throughout their workout. There will also be bouncy castles and other things to keep the kids entertained.
Across the road – near the General Post Office – is the QOC Sports Zone. There you’ll find basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis, athletics, weightlifting, shooting and gymnastics. Also catering, merchandise, entertainers and a “sports” market.
QMA and Qtel are also organizing Sport Day activities at the MIA park from 9am-7pm, with food, stage shows, and 5-on-5 football.
Katara: Pretty much every sport you can think of will be on offer here, including canoeing from 8am to 4pm, fun runs from 10am to noon and cycling from 11am to 4pm. Team sport enthusiasts can also enjoy basketball throughout the day (sign up to compete here) and handball and table tennis between 9am and 5pm. There will also be mini-golf from early in the morning to late in the afternoon.
For those into fitness challenges, the Weightlifting and Bodybuilding Federation (yes, Qatar has one!) will host a show after 1pm, and the Qatar Wrestling and Boxing Federation will offer various activities throughout the day.There will also be aerobic classes in the beach soccer pitch between 10am and 4pm.
Aspire Zone: Guinness World Records officials will be watching to see if the Qatar Football Association will break the record for largest five-a-side football match. All are invited to play, with games kicking off at 9am and running continuously for 10 hours, or until the record of 464 players set last year in the UK is broken.
Also: A 4km Fun Run kicks off at 10am that you can register in advance for here. After that is a “Journey to Remember” walkathon of the Zone starting at noon. There will also be lots of activities, especially for kids, including tug-of-war, as well as events specifically for women, like volleyball. There will be yoga for all, and “American football.”
At 5pm, Aspire will have a “Lighting The Torch” activity, where participants pedal stationary bicycles outside the Torch-Doha hotel to power it up.
Qatar Foundation: QF will be hosting dozens of activities at Education City that are open to the public from 10am-5:30pm. There’ll be loads of entertainers and children’s activities at the pitch near Qatar Academy, performances and pony rides at Al Shaqab, and everything from badminton to dodgeball and zumba at the Student Center.
Here’s the full list:
What else is going on?
Dolphin Energy has organized a whole raft of “Doha Dash” races at the Lusail International Circuit north of town that range from 1k walks to 5k runs.
Residents can register for a cricket tournament in West Bay online. There’s also a few contests on offer, including a countrywide weight-loss competition that will be launched on National Sport Day. Winners of the year-long contest will be awarded prizes during next year’s NSD. To compete, participants must register on Tuesday at the sign-up locations within the Qatar Olympic Committee Sports Zone on the Doha Corniche, Katara and Aspire Zone.
A photo contest via social media has also been going on. To enter, tweet a sports-inspired photo or a picture of yourself engaging in physical activity to NSD’s official twitter account @Qatar_NSD for a chance to win sports gadgets and prizes. Make sure to hashtag the tweet #NSD.
Here’s the official primer on NSD:
You can also read it in Arabic here.
Where are your plans for National Sport Day?