By Zjan Shirinian

The United Arab Emirates has embarked on an ambitious project to bring sporting glory to the nation by the 2024 Olympic Games ©Getty ImagesThe ambitious road to "sporting glory" for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has begun, but a man spearheading the country's efforts to put itself on the Olympic map by 2024 has admitted challenges lie ahead.

Last month, 82 13 and 14-year-olds from the UAE were sent to an intensive training camp in Italy to help nurture their sporting potential.

The country's National Olympic Committee has formed a High Performance Committee, headed by the UAE's only Olympic gold medallist - shooter Shaikh Ahmad Hasher Al Maktoum - to help oversee the ambitious aim of turning promising young talents into world-beaters by the time of the 2024 Olympic Games.

Committee director Wolfgang Thiel has told Gulf News the training camp was "one of the best experiences that I've had in my 45 years in sport".

The German added: "One of the main things during our camp in Italy was to instill this belief that we are all working towards a single goal, and that is international sporting glory for the UAE by 2024.

"Yes, it can be a challenge.

"But if we all work together, and not against each other, then it is certainly achievable.

"In high-level sport it is very essential to see everyone working in one direction with a healthy communication between all staff involved

"At the same time we need to look at ways at improving."

He said three athletes from the 82 who travelled to Italy have been identified as being particularly promising, but insisted that was "not important at this moment", adding: "Our primary aim should be to create an environment for these athletes who are willing to take on the load."

Having come away from London 2012 without a single medal, it is hoped the United Arab Emirates' Olympic fortunes will turn around in the next decade ©Getty ImagesHaving come away from London 2012 without a single medal, it is hoped the United Arab Emirates' Olympic fortunes will turn around in the next decade ©Getty Images

The camp was for youngsters who compete in either track and field athletics, shooting, archery or fencing.

Archery and athletics squads trained in Formia along the Mediterranean coast of Lazio, while the shooting and fencing teams were based at the Julio Aonsta Centre in the Italian capital Rome.

"The next two years will be crucial," said Thiel.

"Of course, one of the bigger challenges would be to create an understanding in society on the benefits of sports so that we have parents supporting their children and society supporting these athletes at the community level.

"At the same time we need to have a proper specialised infrastructure and good coaches who will start building juniors teams who in turn can raise the bar into elite teams.

"Definitely, all this requires cooperation and coordination from all concerned starting with the UAE NOC (National Olympic Committee), the Government, the Ministry of Education along with the sports associations and federations in the country.

"The start has been made, and the start has been good."

Athens 2004 double-trap shooting gold medallist Shaikh Ahmad claimed in July the camp in Italy was "just the start".

The UAE sent its largest ever team to an Olympic Games at London 2012, with 26 athletes competing in six sports.

But it failed to win a single medal, repeating its showing at Beijing 2008.