x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Venues already have a flying start for Dubai Olympic bid

From swimming to football, tennis to volleyball, Dubai has an infrastructure that can aid a potential bid, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

The Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai.
The Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Sports Complex in Dubai.

Last year, a feasibility study conducted by PricewaterhouseCoopers and Populous into a possible Dubai bid for the 2020 Summer Olympics, declared "70 per cent of the hard infrastructure was already in place or planned in the emirate".

Dubai eventually decided against a bid for the 2020 Games, as Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai, wanted to place a bid "once I am totally satisfied that we are prepared to host the greatest sporting event in history in a way that would add value to the Olympic movement itself, as well as the youth of the Arab world".

Officials of the UAE National Olympic Committee (NOC) also decided "a bid would be better timed for 2024" and they announced their intentions to bid for those Games at the Emerging Host Cities, a two-day summit that brought together current and future host cities at Meydan, one of the top sporting attractions of Dubai and host of the richest horse racing event on the planet, the Dubai World Cup.

Should the NOC prepare a bid, Meydan will certainly figure prominently in their presentations. There is probably no better venue in the world for equestrian sports.

The glitzy Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Sports Complex would also be near the top of their list. It has already hosted the world (25 metres) and Asian swimming championships and a host of other events such as diving and water polo.

The complex, built at a cost of Dh1.1 billion, has been described as the world's best indoor aquatic facility and many swimmers said they thought it was better than the aquatic centre for the 2012 London Games.

It boasts an Olympic standard 50-metre pool and a second pool, of the same length, that can be covered with a movable floor. The changing rooms can accommodate 400 athletes and the stands can seat 15,000 spectators. The complex also has diving boards, multipurpose halls, health clubs, a gymnasium and separate training pools.

Beside aquatic events, the Sheikh Hamdan Complex can also host sports such as basketball, volleyball, netball, badminton and others, courtesy of the movable floor.

"It is a beautiful building," Dr Julio Cesar Maglione, president of swimming's world governing body, Fina, said in 2010. "The facilities for swimmers, coaches and the press are extraordinary. It is an excellent championship as the complex is giving the spectators also very good comfort.

"The city is beautiful, which can match any other world cities. Now, you can host any international sporting event here."

Earlier this year, Sheikh Hamdan ordered a renovation of the Zabeel Stadium, with plans to increase the seating capacity from 15,000 to 25,000 and to make it a fully air-conditioned arena. Those changes could make Al Wasl Club a prime candidate for hosting events.

The country also boasts some of the best football stadiums in the region, from Al Ain to Al Jazira and Zayed Sports City, while the Aviation Club has been one of the favourite venues of the world's top tennis players.

There is the sprawling Dubai Sports City as well. Spread across 50 million square feet, the world's first integrated purpose-built sports city is famous among the cricketing fraternity for it's "Ring of Fire" - the floodlights around the cricket stadium.

There are a number of other top sporting venues taking shape at Sports City, too. The 5,000-seat field hockey stadium, built to the guidelines of the International Hockey Federation (FIH), is operational now and will soon host the FIH World Hockey Academy.

A multipurpose indoor stadium, with a seating capacity of 10,000, is also nearing completion and, once ready, will host a multitude of hard-court sports such as basketball, volleyball, handball, badminton, tennis, ice hockey and more.

The centrepiece of the project is an impressive multipurpose outdoor stadium that can hold 60,000 and host football, rugby and track and field. The Dubai Sports City could also be a great spot for the Olympic Village.

So, at present, Dubai certainly ticks most of the boxes. Should they bid for the 2024 Games and win it next year, they will have 11 more years to raise the bar for future Olympic hosts.

Those of us who have lived here for a decade or more know what Dubai can manage that.

arizvi@thenational.ae