With the importance of the Dubai Tennis Championship on the annual international tennis calendar, the city is looking to increase its sporting profile, which up until recently has been seen as being some way short of what a city of Dubai’s international profile could expect. Aside from the tennis championship, Dubai is home to a major horse race, the Dubai World Cup, as well as the Desert Classic golf tournament. It also plays host to numerous cricket matches between India and Pakistan due to the highly politicized nature of the relationship between the two countries, which makes it hugely difficult for either nation to safely host the games – which the global cricket community nonetheless sees as hugely important due to the popularity of cricket in both places.
Dubai Sports City is an attempt by the city authorities to take a step forward for Dubai as a major international sporting hub. Currently under construction and set to open in 2011, it will contain residential properties as well as its sporting facilities – hence the title “Sports City”. The master developer, Dubai Properties, hopes that the facility will rival any similar venue anywhere throughout the world, although this status will require the venue to overcome some hurdles. This is Dubai, though, and even the hurdles which would leave many nations grasping in the wind will appear much more manageable thanks to the city’s eternal ambition. The list of sporting complexes planned for Dubai Sports City certainly offer an insight as to what we can expect when it is up and running.
The main structure within Dubai Sports City is to be a 60,000 seat multi-purpose outdoor stadium. The sports likely to take place there include athletics, soccer, rugby union (it may well play host to the Dubai leg of the international RBS Sevens tournament – where reduced sides of seven men per team play a faster, shorter and higher-scoring version of the popular sport) and potentially the larger cricket internationals. It will also however contain a dedicated 25,000 seat cricket ground, where the United Arab Emirates national cricket team may play their home games. The UAE cricket side has as yet only competed in one World Cup, in 1996 when they finished fifth in their six-team pool, the high point being an encouraging victory over the Netherlands.
In addition to these grounds there will be a 10,000 seat indoor area for multi-purpose use and a 5,000 seat field hockey stadium, as well as an 18-hole golf course designed by successful PGA golf veteran Ernie Els. Given the complex political situation in Pakistan currently preventing numerous national sporting associations from giving their blessing to their teams visiting the country, Dubai may well find itself in the position of hosting what would be considered “home” games for the Pakistan national team – especially in cricket, with the Pakistan Cricket Board having recently inked a three-year deal to play games there. A bid for Dubai to host the 2016 Olympics was however shelved when the parties failed to agree on a way to overcome the problem of Dubai’s incredibly hot summers, which fall at a time when the Olympics are usually in full swing.