x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Dubai opts out of 2020 Olympic race

The emirate expressed interest in hosting the event and launched a feasibility study, but has never launched an official bid

Dubai already hosts a number of high-profile sporting events, including the Dubai World Cup horse race, but has decided not to bid to hold the 2020 Olympic Games.
Dubai already hosts a number of high-profile sporting events, including the Dubai World Cup horse race, but has decided not to bid to hold the 2020 Olympic Games.

DUBAI // Dubai has decided not to bid to host the 2020 Olympic Games, but may enter the race for 2024.

The decision follows a feasibility study launched in 2009 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the emirate’s Ruler and Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE.

The study concluded that as much as 70 per cent of the infrastructure was already in place or planned, but it was decided a bid would be “better timed for 2024”, the Dubai Government said yesterday.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, said that although Dubai’s infrastructure and sporting experience made it well placed to win a bid, “much more has to be done in order to leave the lasting human legacy that celebrates the Olympic values”.

“Hosting the Olympic Games in the Middle East would be a dream come true for the entire region, and we fully intend to place a bid once I am 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,” Sheikh Hamdan said.

No Middle East country has hosted the Olympic Games.

Dubai has been one of the leading Gulf cities that use sport to raise their profile and attract tourists. The emirate already hosts international events such as the Dubai World Cup horse race, the Dubai Desert Classic and Ladies Masters golf tournaments and the Emirates airline Dubai Rugby Sevens.

It was believed that with new facilities at Sports City and the Rugby Sevens complex, along with investment in public transport, the emirate could submit a strong bid for 2020.

Last year it hosted the SportAccord International Convention, an annual five-day exhibition that brings together leaders of more than 100 global sports federations and organisations, and it was the venue for the 10th FINA World Swimming Championships.

As Dubai considered a bid for the 2020 Olympics, Sheikh Mohammed said in April last year: “We will have to take an honest look at our weaknesses as well as our strengths.

“I can assure you of this, though: if we decide to make a bid for the Olympics, we will be in it to win.”

A week after Fifa awarded the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge said he would be happy to see a Middle Eastern country bid for the games.

“There is an interest in certain Middle Eastern countries for the games and we would welcome their bids,” he said.

Sheikh Hamdan said yesterday the focus would now be on grassroots sporting activities, and developing human resources and administration.

“The Arab region is known for its hospitality and I do not believe our region is placing sport as a priority in these turbulent times,” he said.

“Peace is one of the main ambitions of the Olympic movement and has been since the first Olympic truce in 776BC. Our energy needs to go first and foremost to achieving a just and lasting peace for our youth as the bedrock to a future bid, which is most probably for the 2024 Olympic Games.”

Dubai has previously considered making a bid for the 2016 Olympics but did not meet the IOC’s deadline.
Rome, Madrid and Tokyo have so far announced bids for 2020, and Istanbul is expected to do so shortly.

South Africa’s Olympics committee chief said on Wednesday he hoped his government would change its mind and endorse a bid to bring the 2020 Olympics to the continent, but a 2024 bid was definite.

The deadline for applicant cities to submit their bids for the 2020 Games is September 1. The IOC will announce the winner in Buenos Aires on September 7, 2013.

hkhalaf@thenational.ae