d1d8c4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411acRCRDapproved/thenational/Articles/Migration/2009-Q4How they put Abu Dhabi on the Formula One gridc1d8c4f35ea58210VgnVCM200000e66411ac____How they put Abu Dhabi on the Formula One gridKhaldoon al Mubarak may have his sights set on the big picture but when it comes to F1 the chairman of Yas Marina Circuit still has an appetite for the smallest details.<p>It is three weeks before the start of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and, as the sun sinks over the Yas Marina Circuit, Khaldoon al Mubarak, one of the busiest men in the emirate, strides energetically along the back of the main grandstand on an inspection tour of the vast site.</p>
<p>To say that this is a man with a lot on his plate is to understate the case. He is the chief executive and managing director of Mubadala, the Abu Dhabi government's business development company, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority and chairman of Manchester City Football Club. The holder of a degree in economics and finance from Tufts University in Boston, he also serves on the boards of numerous other major companies.</p>
<p>But right here, right now, with exactly 504 hours to go before the fanfare of 20 screaming engines heralds Abu Dhabi's arrival on the global Grand Prix stage, he is 100 per cent focused on his role as chairman of the Yas Marina Circuit.
To the untrained eye, everything looks pristine, but Mr al Mubarak is not here for a relaxed chat with project managers as they reflect upon a job well done. He is in a serious mood and questions everything from the shade of window tinting to the type of cushions in team meeting rooms.</p>
<p>Such attention to detail from this man should come as no surprise. After all, Mr al Mubarak has driven through the transformation of a barren desert island into a world-class motorsport facility, fit to rival the best, in under three years.
"We have work to do before the race weekend but we are nearly there," he says. "It is only then that people will be able to see what we have achieved. It is only on November 2 that we will be able to see what was great and what we need to improve."</p>
<p>But if he has his way, there will be little scope for improvement. In a media room the size of a cinema, he pulls up a chair and emphasises just how determined he is that Abu Dhabi is going to put on a show that will dazzle the region and the rest of the world.
"Monaco, Montreal and Singapore do different things fantastically," he says. "Our hope is Abu Dhabi can take it to a whole new level."
The Grand Prix is one of the highlights of Abu Dhabi's determination to raise its profile around the world, in sectors ranging from business to sport, arts and culture. It is an ambition that has seen partnerships with globally renowned institutions such as Paris-Sorbonne University and the Guggenheim and Louvre museums, and regular events such as the Middle East International Film Festival and the Capitala World Tennis Championship.</p>
<p>"We wanted to bring the best event that is out there to Abu Dhabi and that is what we got," says Mr al Mubarak. "It has everything. It is more than a sport - it is a grand occasion."
And it has even more than that to offer the people of Abu Dhabi and the UAE once the annual Formula One circus has left town: "This is a facility that can be used the whole year round and so many people will get enjoyment from it," he says. "As the city grows, there is obviously a need to create things that bring communities in Abu Dhabi together. This is one of the events that will do that in a major way.</p>
<p>"Of course we want to show what we can do to the rest of the world but this is for the people of Abu Dhabi. That is the biggest reason why we brought Formula One here.
"Was I ever questioned on the decision to bring it here? No. You can feel the interest in it among the people now and as the years go on I am sure that will increase."
There is a simple answer to the question, how was it possible to pull off such a massive project in such a short time? Hard work.</p>
<p>"There are many people who have worked so hard to make this happen," he says. "It was not long ago that there was nothing here but you walk around today and it is everything we hoped it would be. On the weekend of the race we will have everyone looking at us but Abu Dhabi will meet that challenge."
And, the Grand Prix race-winner aside, no-one will be resting on their laurels once the chequered flag has fallen on November 1.</p>
<p>"It is the first year and once the race has finished we have a whole year before the next one. We need to use that time to progress. We will progress with the facilities at the track and we need to keep getting more people here involved."
The role of the media, he says, "especially Arabic media, is very vital in this respect. We need the media to do more and I will do all I can to help them do more."</p>
<p>Experts agree that the best way to generate unbridled enthusiasm for a sport in any country is to develop a homegrown hero. In this respect, says Mr Al Mubarak, "The academy for drivers is very important. We will develop talent. I have no doubts about that. We will find good drivers and we will develop them and give them the chance to really progress."
Does he think Abu Dhabi will one day have its own Formula One driver? "We hope so but you can not be certain. In sport you do need that bit of luck.</p>
<p>"But what is certain is that we have the facilities to provide a platform for drivers. There are Emiratis who can really drive - look at the success we have in rallying. Now they can go for it in track-based classes."
Joining the Formula One circus has opened doors for Abu Dhabi. "You hear the phrase 'the Formula One family' and I have to say it is true," he says.
"We have been to other races and you are made to feel welcome. Those involved in the sport are excited about our race. They are excited because we are helping the growth of Formula One and we have created a circuit that is like nothing seen before."
<b>Keep up to date on all the latest news and multimedia in the build-up to the <b><a target="_blank" href="http://www.thenational.ae/apps/pbcs.dll/section?category=SPORT&profile=1374">Abu Dhabi Grand Prix</a></b> on November 1.</b></p>
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