DUBAI: Glitzy Gulf city gears up for potential 2020 Olympics bid
Dubai is pushing a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games and its ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, says "nothing" will stop the glitzy Persian Gulf hub from competing to hold the prestigious sports event.
Well, except perhaps for the scorching Arabian Peninsula sun which at times brings the temperature up to 122 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees centigrade) during the summertime when the Games would be held.
"We are concerned about the climate," he was quoting as saying by the Reuters news agency on the sideline of a Dubai sports event Wednesday. "On the other hand, nothing will stop us. But still, priority is the athlete."
His wife, Princess Haya, was even blunter, according to the Abu Dhabi-based The National newspaper.
“All of us want to see the Olympics in our part of the world," she said. "But we have to be honest about the hot weather and climate.”
Ever since Dubai's rival and neighbor Qatar lost its bid for the 2016 games, there has been speculation that Dubai might push for to host the 2020 Olympics.
For now, Sheik Maktoum said Dubai is only studying and evaluating costs and benefits of an Olympics bid.
“The Olympics are a dream for us,” he was quoted as saying by The National. “It would be a great pleasure and dream for us to have the Games here. It is very good news that people talk about it. But we first have to study what we can offer. I am not going to say 2020 is too early."
Indeed, experts say even preparing for an Olympic bid is a herculean task. That includes hammering out a solid strategy to protect athletes and fans from the the Middle East's dangers, from sunburn to bombings.
"The biggest challenge we face, and we are well aware of it, is that we have to work, and work hard," said Saeed Hussain, secretary general of the United Arab Emirates National Olympic Committee. "But we are up to it and we can do it."
Holding the games later on in the year, like Qatar suggested in its bid for the 2016 Olympic Games, was said to have been the main factor behind why it failed in its bid.
Another issue likely to surface and create controversy is Israel and whether Dubai will grant exceptional entry visas for Israeli athletes even though the United Arab Emirates has no diplomatic ties with the Jewish state.
Qatar has finished licking its wounds from its failed attempt to win the 2016 Olympics and is now vying to host the soccer World Cup in 2022. This time around, the Qataris are pitching a different solution to the weather issue: a series of air-conditioned outdoor stadiums.
Qatari officials say, according to media reports, that if the emirate gets the World Cup, it will build 12 new air-conditioned outdoor stadiums powered by solar energy.
"The peak performance for a player is reached between 24 and 29 degrees Celsius and we can guarantee 27 degrees on the pitch," Sheikh Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, son of the Emir of Qatar, was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Perhaps Dubai, which already has an indoor ski slope, can also make a bid for the Winter Olympics.
--Alexandra Sandels in Beirut
Photo: Dubai is considering a bid for the 2020 Olympic Games. Its ruler, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, says the island emirate is evaluating costs and benefits of such a bid. Credit: Emirates 24/7/