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Yas Marina Circuit aims for charity role after New York visit

ABU DHABI // Yas Marina Circuit is looking to stage major international charity events after staff visited New York to gain ideas from a major run there.

Officials from the track visited the Big Apple last month to attend the city’s UAE Healthy Kidney 10K road run and learn about staging the best in community fitness programmes.

The annual Healthy Kidney event, a tribute to the founding President Sheikh Zayed, this year attracted 10,500 runners and almost 10,000 spectators.

It is sponsored by the UAE embassy and raises money for the National Kidney Foundation to raise awareness about kidney disease, from which Sheikh Zayed suffered.

“We’ve been doing community activities since 2010,” said Ahmed Al Kaabi, head of government affairs at Yas Marina Circuit.

“We have many people taking advantage of the track to cycle, run and walk. Even as a commercial enterprise it doesn’t stop us from giving back to the community.”

Mr Al Kaabi was amazed by the numbers taking part in New York.

“I’ve never seen this many people participating to help those in need. I was at the starting line and half an hour after the start people were still just crossing the start,” he said.

“It only costs US$40 to participate but many just came to donate for a good cause. Some were so generous they donated up to $30,000. They have a charity culture there, just as we do here.”

Mr Al Kaabi said that in its 10 years, the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K has raises more than $30 million.

“After Ramadan we are going to Washington DC to receive a certificate of appreciation from members of Congress for the UAE’s charitable work,” he said. “That is in addition to the recognition we get from the mayor of New York each year.

“Sheikh Zayed taught us to be humanitarians and giving to those in need all over the world. He was once asked why he doesn’t invest his wealth.

“He said he does invest it, he invests it in people.”

The circuit believes it can incorporate ideas from the New York event at its own community health initiatives, which include weekly programmes such as TrainYas and GoYas, and annual events such as the Zayed Marathon, the Adnic Yas Run and the TriYas Triathlon.

Mr Al Kaabi said Abu Dhabi had everything it needed to stage New York-style charity events – it was just a matter of implementation.

“Probably the most incredible thing I saw was a completely empty Central Park 10 minutes before the marathon and five minutes later 30,000 people were there ready to run,” he said. “This is the experience we want to achieve.

“With awareness and communication with the people we can accomplish this.

“We want to be first in charitable and humanitarian work.”

The key is education, said Mr Al Kaabi.

“These activities help us and help the community. Our goal is to work with government sectors to run events to promote healthy lifestyles,” he said.

YMC’s community health events have already proved hugely popular.

A record 1,300 triathletes took part in the fourth TriYas race this year, a 30 per cent increase from 2013, while last year’s Adnic Yas Run attracted 3,000 participants and 3,500 spectators.

About 20,000 people took part in the Walk 2013, a five-kilometre walk around the track to promote healthy living, and the weekly Tuesday night TrainYas session attracts an average of 2,500 people.

“We’re expecting more than 400,000 people to visit the track this year, more than half of whom will be the local community participating in health and fitness events delivered by YMC,” said Mr Al Kaabi.

YMC user Tarek Alatrach, 25, said: “It’s a great track and the atmosphere is friendly and supportive. “Everyone is there to cycle or run so there is a sense of community.”

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(via The National)