The event, initiated by Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani in 2012, highlights Qatar’s commitment to promoting sports and healthy lifestyles.
Doha’s citizens and residents are set to mark the annual Qatar National Sports Day on February 13, serving as an annual reminder for the local population to prioritise their physical health and engage in sporting activities.
The annual event takes place on the second Tuesday of February, where the population takes a day off to participate in sporting activities organised by local entities.
Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani had declared the first National Sports Day in 2012, before becoming the Gulf country’s leader on June 25, 2013.
The decision made Qatar among the few countries around the world that dedicated a day for sports, including Iran, Bahrain, South Korea, and Japan.
The event is also an opportunity for local health bodies, such as the Primary Health Care Corporation, to raise awareness on diseases that can affect one’s physical movement in the long-run, such as diabetes.
A 2023 study from the medical school of Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar (WCM-Q) warned of an alarming increase of local cases of diabetes.
The researchers said the rate is projected to go from 17.8 percent (37,179 persons) in 2023 to 29.5 percent (84,516 persons) by 2050 among adult Qataris aged 20-79 years.
A total of 57.5 percent of the local diabetes cases are primarily caused by obesity, the study found. Data by the International Diabetes Federation, last updated in 2021, found that Qatar has a 16.4 percent prevalence of diabetes among adults, with 394,900 cases among the population.
The World Health Organization also recommends that adults aged 18 and above participate in 150-300 minutes of physical activity per week.
A vibrant sports capital
Apart from the physical health factor of sports, the Qatar National Sports Day further showcases the country’s identity as a vibrant sports capital.
The Gulf state had already cemented its position as a sports hub by hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2022 as the first Arab and Muslim country to host the major tournament.
“Qatar is passionate about sport. Like every successful athlete, we are determined to better ourselves, push our boundaries and break down barriers. That is why the second Tuesday of every February was designated a public holiday,” the Qatari government’s website says.
Qatar has hosted more than 500 international sporting events within the past 15 years, according to the Government Communications Office. Such major events included the 2006 Asian Games, the 2015 Men’s Handball World Championship, the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship, the 48th Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, and currently the AFC Asian Cup 2023.
Qatar is set to host the 2030 Asian Games.
Some sporting events take place in Qatar on an annual basis, such as the ExxonMobil Qatar Open (tennis), the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters (golf), and the MotoGP Superbike Championship.
In December 2022, Qatar signed a contract to host the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2024 to 2029. The important event will see fierce competition between renowned racers at the Lusail International Circuit in its modernised design.
In addition to hosting events, Qatari athletes declared major victories at international sports competitions. In 2023, Qatar secured 14 medals at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou, China.
Qatari swimmer Nada Mohamed made history in 2012 when she became the first female to represent Qatar at the Olympics in London. The Gulf country also won its first-ever silver medal by its professional high jumper Mutaz Barshim at the London Olympics in the same year.
“Doha has become a beacon of pride, thanks to the guidance and directives of His Highness the Amir, who has established Qatar’s global status, and made sport one of the important factors in the pillars of sustainable development of the country,” Sheikh Joaan bin Hamad Al Thani, the President of the Qatar Olympic Committee, said in March 2019.