x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Meydan, the clean winner -

The teams behind the launch of the Meydan Racecourse look back on a memorable first night of racing and entertainment.

As the big clean-up begins after the spectacular opening of Meydan Racecourse, plans are already under way for next year.
As the big clean-up begins after the spectacular opening of Meydan Racecourse, plans are already under way for next year.

Dubai // What took months to organise, set up and rehearse took just hours to dismantle, as the lights fell and music faded. The day after the memorable launch of the Meydan Racecourse, the creative team behind the light, music and fireworks extravaganzas that had 63,000 people on their feet in applause, sat deflated and sleep-deprived in the Meydan Hotel.

"I have post-event blues," said Jim Curley, managing director of the event company M. "All of the frames for the projector screens are down already. It's quite sad, really." A team had worked from the event's close at 2am until 5.30am, he said, to begin dismantling the technical equipment. Another team took over and was finished by 8am. "What takes you several months to prepare will be all out of here by next week," he said. "I am going on holiday next week but half of the team have already left and the other half are meeting to celebrate and then they are also off on holiday."

Mr Curley and his colleague, the creative director John Young, were responsible for a series of productions that took place before, during and after the horses raced in the 2010 Dubai World Cup. Among the most popular was the telling of the Emirati story in what was called the Meydan Spectacular. The attention and imagination of the crowd was captured by dramatic music; the recitation of a poem written by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai; video footage on 15 screens measuring 15 by 25 metres; and a performance artist in white robes suspended from a giant pearl.

But just 12 hours later, as a team of men in blue hard hats and grey T-shirts worked through the midafternoon heat to clear the rubbish from the stands, the site was calm and quiet again. In the distance, men could be seen tending to the lawns as vans collected what remained of the technical equipment in the centre of the course. For Malih al Basti, a Meydan board member, Saturday evening was an emotional culmination to the labour of three years.

"I was very proud to see my boss walking around, seeing him smile," he said. "Sheikh Mohammed deserves the success of last night. We appreciate the trust he put in us to develop this project. It was amazing. It brings tears to my eyes." Mr al Basti said early comments have been overwhelmingly positive, but he is aware problems always remain to be addressed when organising such large events. The board is awaiting feedback from each of the departments involved in Saturday's event, and then will begin making adjustments for the 2011 Dubai World Cup.

"We will meet together next week to review the whole thing," he said. "We need to receive feedback from the hospitality section, from the hotel car parks, the gates. "I am sure there were some mess-ups, but we will listen and make adjustments." @Email:loatway@thenational.ae