Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai: New centre of the sporting world?
Where once, sport looked west for investment and inspiration, now it looks east.
The oil-rich billionaires of the Gulf have planted a flag at the heart of the sporting landscape in recent years. They have invested their inconceivable wealth across an array of sports into all corners of the world and now they are using their influence to bring sport to the region, as a global statement of their ambition.
Three Gulf states are at the heart of this extraordinary revolution: Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. In Dubai alone, you will find one billionaire in every 200,000 people.
In Abu Dhabi, a rival state in the United Arab Emirates, the figures are just as extraordinary. It is in the process of building the jaw-droppingLouvre Abu Dhabi, having paid the world-famous Paris museum more than £400m just to use the name. While in Qatar, more than 14% of households have at least £1m of private wealth in the bank.
And it is that wealth, that influence, which has lured sport to the Gulf.
Take last week, for instance. On Monday, the row over Qatar's right to stage the 2022 World Cup rumbled on. On Tuesday, Doha in Qatar won the right to host the 2019 World Athletics Championships. From Thursday to Sunday, Rory McIlroy duelled with Henrik Stenson at theEuropean Tour's season-ending showpiece in Dubai.
Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg and the rest of the Formula 1 circus were in Abu Dhabi from Thursday before contesting the final Grand Prix of the season on Sunday at the ostentatious Yas Marina Circuit, built at a cost of about £900m ($1.5bn).
The region is fast becoming a sporting hub like no other. Qatar, for example, will host world championships in boxing, swimming, squash, handball and para-athletics in the next 12 months as well as staging almost 40 other sporting events. bbc
Abu Dhabi is ruled by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. His half brother, Mansour bin Zayed bin Sultan bin Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan (better known as Sheikh Mansour) is the man who bought Manchester City in 2008.
The family have ruled the emirate since the 18th century and pride themselves on 'respect for heritage, culture, tradition.'
The ruling family are complex with Sheikh Mansour one of 19 sons born to Abu Dhabi's long-term ruler Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. His mother, one of six wives, had six sons, making her part of this vast family the most influential.
In terms of wealth? It is almost limitless. It is estimated that the family have as much as $1tn in overseas assets alone. Their investment in City represents loose change, in relative terms, even if they have pumped in excess of £1bn into the club since 2008.
Their football interests extend elsewhere, however. A company owned by Sheikh Mansour has recently agreed to fund the redevelopment of Real Madrid's iconic Santiago Bernabeu stadium to the tune of £312m.
The work will include the creation of a hotel and shopping centre. But perhaps it is their move to expand into the United States that is more interesting.
In 2013, Major League Soccer and the iconic New York Yankees announced a pioneering deal to create an MLS franchise in New York in time for the start of the 2015-16 season - New York City FC was born.
It is a development that could give Abu Dhabi a footing and profile in the United States that was previously unimaginable. A few months later, it was announced Sheikh Mansour and Manchester City added Australian side Melbourne Heart.
"You could look at things like the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi golf championships and the investment in Manchester City as some of their most prominent global marketing assets," said Ben Faber, senior director at Fast Track Middle East, the company tasked with delivering City's fan loyalty programmes.
Roger Federer and Andre Agassi played tennis on the helipad of the Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai in 2005
Lewis Hamilton claimed his second world title after victory at the Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi