x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Dubai Olympics: Go for it says UK's games mastermind Sebastian Coe

Sebastian Coe, the man behind the successful London 2012 games, believes Dubai could stage the Olympic games if it wins the right to host Expo 2020.

Olympic champion Sebastian Coe masterminded the campaign to hold the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Silvia Razgova / The National
Olympic champion Sebastian Coe masterminded the campaign to hold the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Silvia Razgova / The National

Sebastian Coe, the Olympic gold champion turned sports businessman, believes Dubai could eventually be in a position to stage the Olympic Games if it wins the right to host Expo 2020.

Speaking exclusively to The National, Lord Coe said: "Expo would show Dubai can deliver. There is absolutely no reason why the Olympics should not be an ambition for Dubai going forward."

But he warned that staging the games is a challenge. "Nothing is more complicated than the Olympics. The challenge is to operationally integrate 13 days of competition, effectively putting on 26 simultaneous world championships. It is not a walk in the park.

"The first question you have to ask is why you want to do it. It's not enough just to answer that it's a big sporting event. You have to ask what you leave behind after the games are over," he added.

Lord Coe, who masterminded the campaign to hold the 2012 Olympic Games in London, backed Dubai to win the contest for Expo. "It's an important event to host. It has the ability to show all that's good and vibrant in a community. I wish them [Dubai's Expo team] well in their campaign. It is very important for the city.

"But you can't run before you can walk. It's important to show you have a track record in managing and delivering a big event. The Olympics has a whole other tier of complexity compared with Expo," he added.

As executive chairman of the sports and entertainment group CSM, Lord Coe has travelled to the UAE and other Arabian Gulf countries as the region increasingly flexes its financial muscle on the global sporting stage.

He backed the decision to award the 2022 Fifa World Cup to Qatar, despite criticism of the award process and the country's ability to stage the competition in the summer.

"I'm pleased the World Cup is in Qatar. If we're going to extend global competitive sport, you're going to encounter challenges, be they climatic, cultural or sporting.

"As regards the climatic conditions, it will require global discussions on timetables and events. You cannot just refuse a country because it is the wrong time of year," he said.

"But it's not for me to make the judgement on whether or not there should be a winter World Cup. If you're going to include new parts of the world, you've got to accommodate them, and that's the responsibility of the federations, the media and the sponsors," he added.

Recent years have seen a surge in sporting interest in the Arabian Gulf region. Many big sporting events and organisations have sponsorship or ownership ties with Gulf entities, including Abu Dhabi's ownership of the Manchester City Football Club, Emirates Airline's commercial ties with Arsenal and Real Madrid, and Qatar's ownership of Paris Saint Germain and links with Barcelona.

Lord Coe said: "Sport is global now. I'm not surprised European-based sport has proved an attractive proposition for global investors. I'm a bit of a free marketeer, I believe the market should be allowed to reach its own level, that is the nature of global investment. You cannot artificially manipulate the market, any more than you can stop footballers from asking for so much money."

His company, CSM, offers advice to governments and private enterprises on staging big sporting and entertainment events, concentrating on what he calls the "legacy structures" behind such events.

"What is important is what you leave behind and how it impacts on communities in the future. I've been chairman now for six months and it is very exciting," he said.