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Sun 6 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Nakheel pledges 10,000 beds for workers

Property giant Nakheel is to build a state-of-the-art facility to accommodate construction workers.

Property giant Nakheel is to build a state-of-the-art facility to accommodate 10,000 labourers working on its flagship Palm, World, and Waterfront developments. The lodgings will boast full amenities and recreation facilities, and will be completed by the end of the year.

"Our new facility at Dubai Waterfront will hopefully set the new standard for labour accommodation," Chris O'Donnell, Nakheel's CEO, told Arabian Business at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai last week.

"Nakheel, given its leadership position in the industry, needs to take a stand on some of these issues and lead the way," he continued. "It will be equivalent to a one or one-and-a-half star motel, and we expect to have 10,000 beds completed by the end of 2007."

Recent attention in the international media has focused upon the working conditions of labourers on Dubai's many mega-projects, including Nakheel's coastline developments, and Emaar's prestigious Burj Dubai site. Several contractors have been accused of failing to pay workers, forcing them to operate under unsafe conditions, and billeting them in grossly unsuitable accommodation. There has been no suggestion that either Nakheel or Emaar have engaged in such practices.

"Labour accommodation has had a lot of attention here in Dubai," said O'Donnell. "At Nakheel, we comply strictly with the UAE's Labour Law."

Meanwhile, the developer has signed an exclusive multi-million dollar 15-year deal with Cirque du Soleil to stage a permanent show at the heart of the Palm Jumeirah.

"Cirque du Soleil Dubai is expected to open by the first quarter 2010 with the premiere in December that year," a spokesman told Arabian Business. The venue will be the only permanent Cirque show outside the US, China, and Japan ­-- "a major coup for Dubai," according to O'Donnell.

"We will have the Atlantis Hotel, Trump Tower and now the Cirque du Soleil, three iconic buildings and entertainment venues on the Palm Jumeirah," O'Donnell added.

The undisclosed deal has been signed on a "partnership agreement", O'Donnell said, with profits split on a partnership basis, however the contract remains confidential, he added.

Nakheel will build an 1800-seat theatre venue for the permanent show by 2010 with the name and theme of the show not yet decided, however, a spokesman told Arabian Business that it "could well have a traditional theme".

Cirque du Soleil made its first appearance in Dubai at the beginning of this year from January 4 and ran an extended two-month long run of shows. O'Donnell added that the show was so successful that it had decided "well in advance" to bring a permanent show to the emirate.

"The permanent show in Las Vegas called ‘O' opened in 1997 and every show has played to full houses for ten years bringing in six million people. In fact, people even plan their holidays around the show and we think we can the same effect on Dubai," O'Donnell added.

Mario D'Amico, VP Global Marketing for Cirque du Soleil, said via video link that the deal had been on the cards for some time. "We have been watching the growth and dynamism of Dubai for five years and we have always said to ourselves how much we wanted a permanent show."

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