x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Emiratis back Dubai's possible bid for 2024 Olympics

Nothing's confirmed, says NOC secretary general, but Emiratis are ready to back Dubai's Olympic bid all the way.

DUBAI // Emiratis have voiced their support for a bid to host the 2024 Olympics in Dubai, saying the entire country would be behind the emirate's efforts.

The National Olympic Committee (NOC) has until 2015 to confirm a bid to host the 2024 games. Nothing has been finalised yet, according to secretary general of the committee, Mohammed Al Kamali. Even so, they are poised to spring into action as soon as they receive the green light to do so from Government, says Abdulrahman Falaknaz, the director of finance for the NOC.

"We are ready to begin working on a proposal to bid for the Olympic Games once we receive the order from the executive office," Mr Falaknaz told The National.

The Government has already shown it is willing to support and encourage such international projects, according to Ahmed Al Dhaheri, the former deputy speaker of the Federal National Council who now works for the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

"There have been many such events before, and now we have an increasing number of international events," he said. "The goal of taking these on is to give the country a push and encourage us to prepare ourselves and cooperate with countries surrounding the UAE to ensure we can put on such an event."

Dubai's name might be on the proposal to the International Olympic Committee, he said, but the entire country would be behind it.

"Yes, in the Olympics the one that bids is the city," he said. "But the organiser will be the entire country, not one city."

All the emirates would pitch in as much as they could, he said, and he did not rule out roping in other Gulf countries to help create Arab history by making Dubai the first city in the Middle East to host the world's biggest sporting event.

Salim Mohammed Al Amiri, an FNC member from Abu Dhabi, agreed all the emirates would likely help with the bid, even financially.

"The Olympics is a very big event. We are all together and all participate together," he said. "But I am certain the decision makers would cooperate to show the UAE in its best light."

Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said the emirate was always ready to embrace new challenges like these.

"We are one of the most secure cities in the world. International surveys have ranked Dubai as 35th in the top 100 cities with regard to infrastructure and 23rd in doing business," said Mr Lootah. "We are already applying for the World Expo in 2020. Why not host the Olympics or the World Cup as well?

"I think Dubai is more than capable of handling such events."

Mohammad Belshalat, a 29-year-old Emirati from Dubai who works as a manager at DP World, agreed the games are a natural progression for Dubai.

"Dubai has perfected the hosting of similar events, such as the 2003 FIFA World Youth Championship," he said.

And the 12 years remaining before any possible bid comes to fruition provides plenty of time to raise up local talent that could compete and win gold at the home games, he added.

Dubai first expressed its interest in hosting the Olympic Games in 2020, but decided to delay that bid. Other cities that have indicated a possible interest in bidding for 2024 are Durban (South Africa), Casablanca (Morocco), Taipei (Taiwan), Paris (France), Rome (Italy) and Berlin (Germany).

If the event is to take place, Mr Al Dhaheri said, the UAE would need to make many investments in its infrastructure, increase public transportation options, enlarge airports, boost accommodation services, and build state-of-the-art sports facilities.

"There needs to be a transportation network," he said. "But the investment would not only be for the Olympics, but for the country."

malkhan@thenational.ae

osalem@thenational.ae

Additional inputs by Ayesha Almazroui