As Doha waits to see if it has been shortlisted to host the 2016 Olympic Games, neighbouring Dubai has said it is also considering throwing its hat into the ring and bidding for a future Olympic event.
Although it is unclear which games Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, would target, Dubai is increasingly punching above its weight as an international sporting venue. And competition could get hotter with the imminent completion of Dubai Sports City in 2010.
The growing list of events on Dubai’s sporting calendar makes impressive reading. There’s the world’s richest horse race – the Dubai World Cup – plus ACP and WTA tennis events held back-to-back every February, which attract the top players. Golf’s Dubai Desert Classic has been running for nearly 20 years, and a new event, the Race to Dubai, starts in November 2008. This $10,000,000 season-long competition culminates in the world’s richest golf tournament, the Dubai World Championship at Jumeirah Golf Estates. And in 2009, ball games will build their profile in Dubai as it plays host to the Rugby Sevens World Cup and the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.
The work to complete what is billed as the world’s first integrated sports city is also gaining pace, with completion scheduled for 2010. The $4bn Dubai Sports City will eventually have an estimated population of 70,000 with 50 million square feet of sporting venues and academies, residential and commercial properties, hotels, entertainment venues, schools, medical facilities and retail outlets. In April 2008, the Els Club – the 18-hole Ernie Els-designed championship golf course and club – opened its doors to the public.
Highlights will be an outdoor 60,000-seat multi-purpose stadium for rugby, football and track and field athletics; an indoor 10,000-seat multi-purpose stadium for all hard court games, ice hockey, concerts and other events; a dedicated cricket stadium catering for 25,000 spectators (expandable to 30,000) and a field hockey stadium for 5000 spectators (expandable to 7500). Sports academy facilities will include Manchester United Soccer Schools, an International Cricket Council Global Cricket Academy and Butch Harmon School of Golf,
Dubai Sports City is likely to boost the range of sports hosted by the emirate. Malcolm Thorpe, marketing director of sports business at Dubai Sports City, says: “As we complete our facilities over the next two to three years, we’re looking to add to those events, specifically with our cricket and hockey stadiums, which will be completed in 2009.”
Currently, Dubai has no suitable facilities for major athletics events. But that is about to change, says Mr Thorpe. The 60,000-seat stadium will have an athletics track and there will also be a warm-up track in the academy area, enabling Sports City to host major athletic events from then onwards.
In May 2008, Dubai Sports City unveiled The Gateway, the silver and black twin towers that mark the entrance to the sporting destination and are the tallest structures in the entire development.
“The Gateway will be the icon of Dubai Sports City,” says U Balasubramaniam, CEO of Dubai Sports City. “Standing at the entry to the entire development, it will provide an ideal headquarters for businesses looking to position themselves for global growth.”