Lack of sporting culture derails another international sporting event in the Gulf
The international governing body for aquatic sports said on 15 May that Dubai has pulled out of hosting the World Swimming Championships in 2013.
The Federation Internationale de Natation (Fina) said that Dubai will still host the World Short Course Swimming Championships using a 25-metre long pool in December this year, but it should focus on developing aquatic sports in the emirate and the rest of the Middle East before it hosts swimming’s main championships in an Olympic-sized 50m pool.
“We believe that, at this stage, it is of paramount importance to further improve the impact of the aquatic disciplines in this Middle East region before staging a Fina World Championships with our five sports. The UAE authorities will certainly do their best to accomplish this goal and the first step towards achieving it will be the organisation of a very successful Fina World Swimming Championships in December”, said Fina President Julio Maglione.
It is not the first time a global sporting body has said that a Gulf city does not have sufficient sporting traditions to host major international events. In 2008 the International Olympic Committee said one of the reasons it did not select Doha as one of the four candidates for the 2016 Olympics was Qatar’s short sporting legacy.
Despite these two setbacks Dubai and Qatar are still planning to host the Olympics and football’s World Cup.
In early May Qatar launched its stadium designs for its bid to host football’s 2022 World Cup bid. Doha plans to build 12 stadiums, 70,000 hotel rooms, and $43bn of infrastructure if its bid is successful (MEED 4:5:10).
Qatar is preparing a bid as part of an ongoing drive to diversify their economies away from oil and gas. “We hope that hosting an event like the World Cup, will be a catalyst for expanding the tourism industry, which will be a great boost for the economy, and Qatar’s diversification plans,” says Hassan al-Thawadi, chief executive, Qatar 2022 Bid Committee.
Dubai is also currently planning to bid for the right to hold the 2020 Olympic Games. The emirate’s ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum has formed a working group of government and private sector representatives to explore the possibility of Dubai hosting the Olympics.
If successful, Dubai would need to undertake a number of large-scale construction projects to make the city ready for the games. One of the largest schemes would be an Olympic stadium capable of hosting track and field events, and seating about 80,000 spectators.
The region’s climate is a major obstacle for hosting the Olympics and the World Cup because they are outdoor events that are traditionally held in the summer months when temperatures in the Gulf can reach up to 50 degrees celsius.
If successful the Olympic and World Cup bids will build on the successes that Gulf states have already had at successfully bidding for global sporting events. Doha hosted the Asian Games in 2006, and it was the venue for the International Association of Athletics Federation (IAAF) championships in March this year.
Oman is preparing to host the Asian Beach Games later this year. The sultanate is developing a 1 million-square-metre site that will comprise sports arenas, villages to house up to 3,000 athletes and grandstands to accommodate up to 5,000 spectators, as well as hotels, restaurants and other recreational facilities.
For motorsports, Abu Dhabi held its first Formula 1 race last year, joining Bahrain which staged its first Grand Prix in 2004.
Dubai will also host Fina’s short course championships later this year. The emirate has invested in new facilities for the event. In 2008, Dubai Municipality awarded Saudi Binladin Group an estimated AED1.1bn ($300m) design and build contract for an aquatic sports centre with a 25m pool.