The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of the most important races in years for Formula 1.
A crowning event on Yas Island
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was one of the most important races in years for Formula 1 drivers and sporting enthusiasts. For Abu Dhabi and for the country, however, it was the venue - Yas Island - that triumphed above all. Tens of thousands of visitors descended on what was once a spare spot of sand, filling gleaming hotels and enjoying shops and concerts.
Turning a barren stretch of coast into a fixture on Abu Dhabi's tourism landscape is a remarkable accomplishment. Yas is also becoming a year-round destination. With fixtures from Ferrari World Abu Dhabi - the world's largest indoor theme park that swung open this month - to the Yas Yacht Club, there are certain to be more off-season visitors. Plans for residential developments and new commercial interests, including one of the largest Ikea franchises in the region, will attract more UAE residents to its shores.
Abu Dhabi's tourism leaders should feel vindicated. But success brings its own challenges. With the expected surge in visitors comes an increased need for diligent planning ahead. Yas Island's architects have committed to waste recycling and protecting the region's fragile ecosystem, but stresses are likely to increase as more people flock to the new development. Equally critical is managing the influx of visitors with a corresponding increase in services, such as on-call medical professionals and police officers.
But for the moment, Yas's success should be celebrated. Its prudent approach to planning now serves as a model for other developments in the UAE and beyond. The glamour of the project did not blind developers to the importance of nuts and bolts and making sound infrastructure a priority. They built enough hotel rooms for everyone and enough roads for visitors to get to the island in good time. Many of the roads and rooms were in place months before the first high-powered engine arrived at Yas. Indeed, the groundwork for the island, for yesterday's successful Grand Prix and for Yas's year-round appeal, was laid long before this weekend. Now the world can see that a new global destination has been crowned and scepticism can be put to bed.