DUBAI, United Arab Emirates, (AP) — Dubai will set up a committee to decide whether to bid for the 2020 Olympic Games and the World Expo that year, state media reported, the latest effort by the Gulf emirate to attract international attention and business despite its financial woes.
Dubai’s ruler has relied on such large-scale global ambitions to help drive his territory from little more than a patch of sand fifteen years ago to the Middle East’s business, sports and tourism hub. But the emirate has been hammered by the global financial crisis, struggling with massive debt as its key business sectors have declined.
Although the ruling Al Maktoum family has scaled back some of its development plans, it has managed to capitalize on its many sports investments to help weather the global economic downturn. It opened a US$120-million cricket stadium in April that has served as a home ground for Pakistan in five one-day internationals and a Twenty20 match against Australia.
The lavish stadium is part of Dubai Sports City, a cluster of mega-venues that will stage sports and entertainment events and set up training facilities and specialized academies for golf, tennis, soccer, rugby, cricket and swimming. Under construction since 2002, the project’s managers say progress has been undeterred despite the economic crisis.
The complex could be key to a bid for the 2020 Olympics, which will be decided by a committee decreed by Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, according to the official United Arab Emirates WAM news agency. The group will also decide whether to push to host the 2020 World Expo, a large public exhibition that has been held since the mid-19th century to showcase achievements in art, design, education and trade.
“These two global events, the Olympic Games and World Expo, give us a sense of common purpose and play to our strengths,” Sheik Mohammed was quoted as saying by WAM late Sunday.
Dubai is not the only Gulf sheikdom that has looked to an Olympic bid to raise its profile. Two years ago, Qatar unsuccessfully bid for the 2016 Olympics.
Dubai has run far ahead of its Gulf competitors on the sports front by linking investment with a decade-long effort to attract tourists and entertain the Asian and Western expatriates that make up most of the emirate’s 1.5 million inhabitants.
But while the emirate has earned high marks for hosting ATP and WTA tour tennis events, the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament and horse racing’s Dubai World Cup, it jeopardized its reputation earlier this year when the UAE denied a visa to an Israeli tennis player for a tournament. The WTA Tour board ordered the Dubai Tennis Championships to pay a record $300,000 fine.