Posted on March 17, 2015

The finals of the 8th edition of the ever-popular Schools Olympic Program (SOP) will take place from 18th to 20th March 2015 with more students than ever before participating this year. Hundreds of students from 221 schools across Doha will compete in the finals of 14 sporting disciplines, with the tennis finals being held on the 18thMarch in the state-of-the-art Khalifa International Tennis and Squash Complex, which just recently hosted the World Schools Tennis Championships and the WTA Qatar Open, and finals in all other sports taking place at the world-famous Aspire Dome. 

The finals for best female student athletes in Qatar will be held on the 19th March and the finals for the male students will be held on the 20th March and will be open to the public. The Qatar Olympic Committee is encouraging everyone to come down and show their support for these talented young athletes. The sporting action on 20th March will kick off 9 am with the top student athletes in Football, Taekwondo, Goalball and Shooting competing to become Schools Olympic Champion.

Speaking ahead of the finals, Taekwondo athlete Ibrahim al-Oulan, 15, from the Doha Independent Preparatory School, said: “This will be the third Schools Olympic Program that I’ve competed in and they are always so much fun. I absolutely love taekwondo and I still have my whole career ahead of me. The Schools Olympic Program gives me an opportunity to test my skill against the best athletes my age and this will definitely prepare me for the coming competitions as I hope one day to be a member of the national team.”

Established in 2007 following the hugely successful 15th Asian Games held in Doha in 2006, the SOP consists of multisport competitions in Olympic and Paralympic sports among students in Qatar aged 5 to 18 years. Sports included in the Program are Tennis, Shooting, Athletics, Handball, Volleyball, Table Tennis, Basketball, Football, Gymnastics, Fencing, Swimming, para-athletics and para-table tennis. This year’s Program saw Taekwondo added, bringing the total number of sports to 14.

Commenting ahead of this year’s SOP finals, Executive Director of SOP, Mohamed al-Fadala said: “We wish all of this year’s finalists the best of luck in their competitions. We hope that they will benefit from their experience of competing against the top student athletes in the country, make new friends from across Qatar and enjoy the celebration of school sport, creating memories that will live with them forever. We encourage everyone to come down and support them and see first-hand the excitement of the Schools Olympic Program.

“We are very pleased with the enormous growth of the Schools Olympic Program since it began in 2008. This shows the huge success and popularity of the program and this year’s finals will be bigger and more exciting than ever before. It is our aim that the Schools Olympic Program spreads the Olympic values, educates through sport and develops healthy and responsible members of society. We hope to see even more students taking part next year and reap the many benefits of our unique program.”

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The SOP has grown from 7,000 participants from 300 schools in its inaugural edition in 2007-2008 to 26,454 students from 461 schools in last year’s edition. The SOP aims to introduce students across Qatar to sport at a grass roots level, educating them through the Olympic value and ensuring that sport will become an integral part of their future lives. In addition, the SOP serves as the first level on Qatar’s sporting pathway and the identification and development of young talent is a key objective. Former participants in the program include World Indoor High Jump Champion, Mutaz Barshim, Rahma al-Dulaimi, who represented Qatar in last year’s Youth Olympic Games, and Mariam Farid, the young, up and coming hurdler, who this week won silver in the GCC Women’s Games.

For this year’s SOP to tie in with the theme of Sport and Peace, and as part of its commitment to developing sports worldwide, the Qatar Olympic Committee (QOC) has invited 20 students from Georgia for an all-expenses paid trip to attend the finals of the SOP, and meet Qatari students and share sporting experiences. They will also have the chance to tour Doha’s state-of-the-art facilities and cultural sights, ensuring an interesting and educational experience. This comes in light of the Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Georgian Olympic Committee and QOC.

This year’s edition of the SOP also witnessed the nation’s biggest-ever Paralympic Day earlier in March, which saw over 800 student athletes from 66 schools take part in para-athletics, para-table tennis and goalball competitions. This year’s Paralympic Day celebrated Doha’s hosting of the IPC Athletics World Championships by giving students the chance to compete on the very same track that the world’s best Paralympic athletes will compete in October, in the last major event before the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

The final competitions of this year’s Program on the 20th will have numerous family-friendly activities organized by theme partners Reach Out To Asia (ROTA), a member of the Qatar Foundation, as well as many other activities organized by the Program’s partners.