A large crowd packed the stands of the National Stadium in Doha when the 2011 Pan Arab Games opened Friday (December 9th).
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, Nabil al-Arabi, secretary-general of the Arab League, and a large diplomatic contingent attended the opening ceremony. The estimated crowd was more than 25,000.
Nearly 8,000 athletes from 21 Arab countries are participating in the games. The Egyptian team is the largest among the participants with about 400 athletes. The games include 33 individual and group events, and will continue until December 23rd.
For the first time in the history of the Pan Arab Games, the opening ceremony featured three artists, including Egypt's Ihab Tawfiq, Syria's Asala Nasri, and Qatar's Fahd Kubaisi.
Khalil al-Jaber, director of sports affairs for the games' organising committee, said opening ceremony tickets sold out two days before the games began. This is the first time that a Gulf country is hosting the Arab Games since its inception in 1953.
Al-Jaber told Al-Shorfa that world-class sports stadiums and training facilities would help raise the standards of the games.
"The Pan Arab Games in Doha is the first to follow the highest international standards in the history of the games, and all preparations were made at the highest levels from the stadiums to the athletes' village," he said.
"It is also the first Pan Arab Games where the swimming competition winners will automatically qualify for the 2012 Olympics in London."
Hamad al-Tamimi, director of the services for the games' organising committee, said 2,500 athletes participated in the opening ceremony.
He said the provision of substantial financial rewards will encourage Arab athletes and will improve the quality of the Arab games.
"All signs indicate that the Pan Arab Games in Qatar will be at the Olympic level," he said.
The organising committee will grant awards to record breakers and to medal winners in individual sports categories, group sports, and individual sports in teams. An award will also be given to the event's best athlete.
The best athlete in the Pan Arab Games will win a $70,000 cash prize, and the same award will be given to the Olympic committee with which the winner is affiliated.
Recipients of gold, silver and bronze medals in individual sports and the Olympic committee they are affiliated with will each win cash prizes of $5,000, $3,000 and $2,000, respectively.
Recipients of gold, silver and bronze medals in group sports and their respective Olympic committee will each win cash prizes of $50,000, $30,000, and $10,000, respectively.
In the individual team sports category, recipients of gold, silver and bronze medals in group games and their respective Olympic committee will each win cash prizes of $3,000 and $2,000 and $1,000, respectively.
According to Ibrahim Saad, a member of the organising committee, tickets for several events, especially football, were in high demand.
"Most of the stadiums used for the games will have organised transportation services and live television broadcasting," Saad added.
"The Qatari al-Dawri and al-Kass Sports networks will broadcast live all events on al-Jazeera Sports and al-Jazeera Sports News."
Saad said the organising committee decided to allocate ticket proceeds to charities in Qatar.