x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Song and dance

Charlize was standing there wearing very little when suddenly a couple of divers dove into view feeding the fish.


Tiger Woods is one of the most potent images in sport, so it was something of a shock to learn that General Motors is to drop its sponsorship of him at the end of next year. The fact that the company that makes the Buicks that ferried the world's most famous golfer to work is in deep trouble makes the news less surprising. They've already asked the US government to bail them out to the tune of $25 million (Dh91m), so they need every dime of the $7m (Dh25m) a year they pay Woods.

As a mad keen golfer, I have to say that I couldn't care less what car he drives. I'd be much more concerned if he was dropped by Nike, whose clubs, balls and gloves he currently uses and whose clothes he wears to such effect. He looks marvellous in those red stretchy crew necks, although the stuffier golf clubs still won't let the guys wear them. It's polo shirts with collars or they don't get on the course.

Woods was famously involved in a tug-of-love battle between Nike and their rivals Titleist, whose clubs he used to use. But it was the clever Nike ads - one of which showed him juggling golf balls then taking a mid-air swing at a ball that took off into the stratosphere - that captured the public's attention. Even though we all know he could probably still win the US Open with a bag full of antique hickory shafts, Nike is unlikely to drop him. But GM's decision is a reality check. It's chilling to think that even the richest sportsman in the world is not immune from the effects of the recession.

What an incredible time it is right now for arts, culture and entertainment in the UAE. When all the news from Europe and America is doom, gloom and lousy weather, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are fizzing with excitement and you feel this is only the beginning.

On Monday, George Michael makes what he says will be his farewell concert in the Zayed Sports City Stadium with Alicia Keys as the warm-up act. Crikey, by any account, she is sensational in her own right. Last week, the opera star Cecilia Bartoli took Abu Dhabi by storm with a bravura performance of 19th century romantic music and according to her boyfriend, the baritone Oliver Widner, who was in the audience at the Emirates Palace, she loved every minute of her first visit here. On the way out, he asked anxiously about the applause, wondering how it compared to other performances. I assured him that she knocked them dead, so it sounds like we may see more of one of opera's most exciting stars.

The buzz coming out of the auditorium was palpable and the movers and shakers of the arts and culture world should be feeling really pleased with themselves. It was also lovely to see Abdullah Ibrahim's musicians staying on for the Bartoli conference after their brilliant performance the previous evening. Artparis-Abu Dhabi was a triumph, and we've got the Russian Festival Ballet performing the Nutcracker Suite at the Madinat, Dubai, next month to look forward to along with the Dubai Film Festival, where Hollywood A-listers like Nicolas Cage, Brendan Fraser, Salma Hayek and Goldie Hawn will be walking the red carpet. There will be a hefty turnout from Bollywood as well in the form of Abhishek Bachchan, Anil Kapoor and Preity Zinta.

With the Museum of Islamic Art and Robert De Niro's Tribeca Film Festival Doha launching practically next door in Qatar we really are spoilt for choice. And we mustn't forget our home grown talent. The UAE Philharmonic Orchestra is performing at the American University in Dubai on Saturday, with its new Symphony Series 2008. The orchestra is a tremendous success story, having been put together from scratch by its conductor, the German concert pianist Philipp Maier. We should all feel proud of it too.

At the Atlantis bash, my old friend Richard Branson introduced me to his new friend Charlize Theron, who has been a guest on his beautiful island of Necker in the Virgin Islands. The South African born movie queen turned out to be a lovely, funny, self-deprecating and very non-actressy actress. We all met up the following day for lunch at the hotel's French restaurant, Rostang, and it was dark sunglasses all around. Charlize told us she was staying in one of the amazing Lost Chambers suites on three floors with one entire glass wall that looks into the massive Ambassador Lagoon. She was standing there wearing very little when suddenly a couple of divers dove into view feeding the fish. "They can see me," she shrieked, only to be reassured that the glass is one-way and they can't see into the suite. A disconcerting experience nonetheless.

Michelle Palmer, the woman found guilty of having illicit relations, public indecency and being intoxicated in public, tells a Sky television crew: "It just proves our innocence after all the bad stuff that was written." I hate to disabuse her but it does no such thing. The sentences still stand, they were simply suspended at the discretion of the judge. The pair will now be deported.

It's hard not to feel a certain amount of Schadenfreude when I read about high flyers having to part company with their Ferraris and Lamborghinis. It's happening in the UK and the UAE, where people are just making one last journey back to the suppliers showrooms, handing in their keys and walking away from monthly payments of around Dh25,000. All together now... Aaaaah!