Emirate ready for Olympics

Dubai Sports City believes it is ready to be the central focus of an audacious UAE bid to host the Olympics.

The British Olympic team poses on Aug 25 2008 after returning back to the UK at London's Heathrow airport. Britain's most successful Olympic team for 100 years arrived home after winning 47 medals in Beijing.
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Dubai Sports City believes it is ready to be the central focus of an audacious UAE bid to host the Olympics. That is the view of Malcolm Thorpe, the organisation's marketing director (sports business), as he reveals talks are taking place on a number of proposals that could bring several major events to the region.

As construction takes shape at the world's first integrated sports city, questions abound about its future and what will eventually be held in its venues, which include a 60,000 all-seater stadium and athletics track, a 25,000-capacity cricket venue and a multi-purpose indoor arena accommodating 10,000. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has a vision to host the Olympics, with 2020 the next available date open for bidding.

With the other emirates like Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Sharjah expected to play a part, Thorpe says bringing the Games to the Middle East for the first time is on the agenda. And he admits: "I will be surprised if Dubai is not considering a bid for 2020. "That is the earliest time to make a bid now with 2016 closed, but you often don't get the Olympics the first time you bid, sometimes it is the second time.

"So maybe 2024 is a more realistic hope. "Now that Doha has not been successful in its bid for 2016, then Dubai will be under discussion again. It would be great to have it here and we will support a bid." Due to the excessive summer heat levels in the UAE, the Games would have to be staged as late as possible in the year, and the UAE would have to follow the Doha model, where they planned to host the Games in late October.

The Fifa president Sepp Blatter, when awarding the UAE the Club World Cup next December, said that it was unlikely the Emirates would ever be handed the international World Cup due to it being staged in summer, despite the possibility of using enclosed air conditioned stadiums, and similar restrictions could apply to the Olympics. In Beijing during the past fortnight, enforced drinks breaks were in force during the football tournament and several athletes had to be treated for symptoms relating to heat exhaustion. Temperatures in the UAE were 10 degrees higher than in Beijing while the Games were going on.

But Thorpe, meanwhile, is concentrating on building Dubai Sports City's reputation on the international stage first before making more grandiose plans. "What Dubai has to do is build up to that by continuing to stage a series of successful events. When people start talking about where to host events, they often don't mention Dubai right now. That is going to be the challenge, to be recognised by the sports business and seen as a place to stage events. To make Dubai an acceptable venue for major events is not just about stadiums, but the whole infrastructure; the transport system, roads and train network, accommodation and security."

Beijing has set high standards for the future after its successful staging of this year's Games and London has a hard act to follow in 2012. But Dubai will be a strong future contender and with Sports City's stadia expected to be completed in 2010, Thorpe says they are looking at various sporting link-ups to help establish the city on the world stage before then. Twenty20 cricket tournaments have already been discussed, both on a county and international level, but talks have also been held about Super 14 rugby, NBA basketball and world ice hockey teams.

"We will have the facilities and it is just a question of how best to use them," he said. "We have had discussions with the Dubai Management Event Company and hopefully we can work together to achieve the same ambition of making this city a major sports venue and base. @Email:akhan@thenational.ae