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Sun 16 May 2004 04:00 AM

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Dubai prepares for 2016 Olympic bid

Morocco and Egypt may not be getting the 2010 football World Cup, but Dubai is preparing to bring the next best thing to the Arab World by 2020.

Sporting enthusiasts across the Middle East will have something to look forward to as Dubai begins it preparations for the 2016 Olympic games.

The emirate in the Gulf, which is fast becoming one of the most sought after holiday destinations, is hoping to bring the Olympic Games to the Arab World by 2020 at the latest.

Although it is too early for any official announcement, Salem bin Dasmal, head of the Dubai Tourism and Development Company (DTDC), which channels investment for Dubai’s $5 billion tourism development Dubailand, confirmed 2016 was on the cards.

“We’re earmarking 2020 as being when we could potentially host an Olympic, but we’ll do a bid before that in 2016 and hopefully get 2020,” he said.

It appears the Dubai government has been planning the bid for some time. Dubai Sports City, estimated at US$2 billion and part of the US$5 billion Dubailand complex will be the cornerstone of the Olympic bid. Backed by three local investors, the sports city is set to comprise four major stadiums each with a capacity for 35,000 fans. It will also include an indoor multi purpose stadium, an equestrian centre and polo facilities.

“One of the investors is Abdul Rehman Flaknaz, who’s a member of the Olympic committee, which is very important for us as we [Dubai government] and them [investors/developers] have agreed that the facilities are built to a standard to enable us to bid for the Olympics in the future,” explained bin Dasmal.

Complementing the Sports City will be the recently announced $100 million Al Emarat Sports World. This will include multipurpose arenas catering for squash, volleyball, basketball, handball, tennis and bowling amongst other facilities.

However, the cost of the games will not come cheap. The Athens Olympiad this summer has already seen budgets spiral out of control. The government had originally hoped to spend $750 billion drachmas ($2.6 billion), although the budget was doubled to 1.5 trillion drachmas (US$5.2 billion) in 2002. On top of that the project has incurred a US $1.6 billion in its final year of preparations.

Whatever the cost, Dubai clearly hopes putting part of the infrastructure in place now, will help it gain favour with the selection committee by the time the bidding cycle comes around.

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