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Sun 5 Jul 2009 12:23 PM

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Is Dubai ready for the Olympics?

Damian Brandy asks whether Dubai has the money and the sporting tradition to hold mega event.

Why does Dubai want to host the Olympic Games? It’s the first question on the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) questionnaire that they distribute to potential hosts when assessing their viability.

It will be the job of the Dubai 2020 committee to convince the Olympic delegation that there is common ground with their objectives.

There is more than one reason why any city would want to host the greatest sporting event on earth of course. The Olympics would provide huge benefits economically to the region.

State-owned companies such as Emirates Airlines, Jumeirah Group and Nakheel would be set for a significant windfall from the hosting and huge travelling support. It would also offer a global platform from which to showcase the attractions of the ‘Jewel in the Desert’ – as the marketing slogan goes.

The potential global audience of up to 4.3 billion people represents a significant marketing opportunity. Great reasons and often the central motivating factors for hosting the Olympics, but the IOC will want to see more than that.

Such as: Where is Dubai’s sporting culture? Where are its leagues? Where are its sporting bodies? Where are its participants? Where are its champions?

The fact that the UAE is multicultural is great, and if Olympic participants who represent the Emirates originate from another country, that only reinforces the cultural fusion Dubai represents.

But surely the team should be a true reflection of the diversity of its country? An Arab nation without at least a handful of indigenous athletes, would do nothing but dissuade future generations of Arab children to choose sport over shopping malls or roof-down JBR cruising.

Nations as underdeveloped as Vietnam and as small as Liechtenstein have sporting legacies that tower above that of the UAE. They are to Dubai what the Burj Al Arab is to a desert dune… well not quite but you get the drift.

Building work may be on hold here but there is a great demand for the construction of a sporting culture; built on the legacy of iconic local sporting figures and with foundations deep enough to withstand the stern test of time.

While many countries would claim to be hemmed in by financial constraints, the money is not a problem in the UAE, or is it? Perhaps it is. The point about sporting participation is that it begins with opportunity and is sustained by passion. Very often – even as careers mature, money still comes second to global recognition or peer respect.

Arguments rage as to whether there is any direct correlation to the development of sport and the socio-economic status of a person, nation or sport, i.e. Is money a barrier to sporting success?

Take the situation in Britain, where the Department for Sport is considering reducing their significant investment into the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) after the poor performance of the team in this year’s Wimbledon Championships. Money can be as powerful a de-motivating factor as it is motivating.

Sport aside, there is so much more to the Olympic ethos than world records and gold medals. Sport is a celebration of human endeavour, a triumph of opportunity and testament to dedication. That’s why sport matters so much to so many. The Maseratis, Rolexs and Palm villas are simply a byproduct.

I think the Olympics are about openness and inclusiveness, even in the midst of mayhem and destruction. They are a showcase for tolerance, equality and cohesion. I’m not sure if Dubai is quite there yet.

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well." - The Olympic message and the essence of the Olympic spirit.

Should Dubai fully embrace it, it could mark a seismic shift in the psyche of the nation. They just need to see past the money.

Damian Brandy is Editor of ITP's Middle East Cricket magazine.

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Sue Walters 11 years ago

I really don't see how on earth Dubai could ever be considered as a host for the SUMMER Olympics - its held in July / August, mostly in the open air - I rest my case.

Geriant 11 years ago

I have learned two things in life. Never talk about money, and don't mention the Olympics in a pub in London. The anti-lobby was so great before they won the bid but it has gone feral and now it seems nobody ever supported the 2012 bid. Montreal is still paying for the folly, and Athens is pretending they were going to paint the place anyways. Sydney claims to have made some money, but never puts a figure on it. Dubai imports its sports, and there is no real local athletic or sporting culture, apart from robots on camels at the track. This fits in with the yesterday thinking of Dubai being spoken of only in superlatives. Doha failed completely to make a stamp with the Asian Games, so Dubai should look to something more realistic.

shakir 11 years ago

'The most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle' What a depressing, sweeping statement in a badly written article. It seems to come straight out of Les Miserables. If struggle is the only thing on offer, I am out. Dubai is a winner and we will do more that just struggle, I am sure.

DooBoy 11 years ago

If for some very strange reason the olympics were ever held in this part of the world, would Israeli athletes be allowed to compete I wonder?

NAT 11 years ago

Good piece. I think we need all government departments to promote all sports in the UAE an not just for the Olympics. We need to promote fitness for some of these over weight children here in the uae and make them understand that it is good for them and that they are the future of Dubai. We need to have more sporting facilities built in the uae and STOP building apartments and office space that are not going to be used! The focus should be on sporting venues now and sporting clubs to help start building communities! By the way 'Shakir' the quote regarding the taking part stuff is actually the official Olympic Creed, which has appeared at every Olympic Games in history. If that depresses you then perhaps the article has a point!

Omar 11 years ago

Excellent piece Damian! We miss this sort of analysis rather random comments that lack deep thoughts just for the sake of mocking.

jon 11 years ago

As a sport-loving expat who emigrated to Dubai two years ago, I feel there is a distinct lack of sporting culture here. Whatever others may want to argue to the contrary, sport does not rank high on the priority list of schools and is not high on the list of citizens. Maybe at top level, where it will attract tourists and therefore additional money there is interest, but not at grass roots. Not at the level where sport is promoted for its health and well-being qualities, or just for the sake of playing. And that won't change with an Olympic Games.

paul 11 years ago

Summer Olympics in Dubai, on the face of it not a good idea for all the reasons mentioned, but hold back a little and look at the bigger picture; We all want the East and West Countries to be more at one with each other and what better way than through Sport, “An Olympic Game”. The City of Dubai could just be the catalyst to start a new dialoged between East and West countries by putting away their differences for a time and coming together to compete against one and other with out arms. If you are over 40years old, you are by now most likely entrenched in you ideas on how all countries should be run just like the country you grew up in. Like it or not, your country has over you life time through media manipulation, indoctrinated you into their way of thinking. People who have traveled and seen at first hand other countries have gained an understanding of how our minds are closed to other cultures, this is what is behind the Olympic ideal to open you mind to others by competing with them you look at them through a different aspect.(Think about it) The new city of Dubai with all it faults; is by my reckoning the correct place to hold an Olympic Game, let the new world generation brush away the bigotry from the past generation to compete against one an other in sport and may be, just may be, we can all rise above our own insecure little worlds for our grandchildren and the greater good of man kind. PAP

Kevin 11 years ago

The key point as has been mentioned is "Summer Games". The flagship events are the Athletics in the main stadium for the Games - remember Usain Bolt at Beijing!. The whole season is geared towards a summer event. The region should stick to events that make sense and are not so date specific - for example here in Muscat we are hosting the Asian Beach Games in December 2010 - the ideal time for a major international sporting event in the Gulf.


I am of the opinion that the Olympic Games should move on from country to country. Therefore, UAE is in a perfect position to organise the Olympics in 2020 in fine style. We had the Asian Games in Qatar earlier which were a great success. The Olympics are slightly bigger than the Asian Games if I may say so. Unless new countries are selected to organise the Olympics, people from other parts of the world will not know the culture and presence of the Gulf states. It is these Games which can carry a message of bringing every citizen of the world together at a common place. The U.A.E. is well equipped to organise the Games without any doubt. Some of the events can be held in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Fujairah and other emirates too. The vast hotels and the new transport systems will all add upto to ensuring that the U.A.E. can host the Olympics. Let us all work together in bringing the Olympic Games to the U.A.E. All eyes will be turned to the U.A.E. whether we have medal winning stars or not. We can show to the world our ability to organise and by being fine hosts. If the U.A.E. can organise top level football, cricket and other sporting activities why not the Olympic Games ?