Abu Dhabi GP gives Gulf the chance to shine as a top tier sports venue
This weekend Abu Dhabi will host its first Formula 1 race and in the process, the Middle East will help cement its position as a global sporting destination. Abu Dhabi is the second venue to host an F1 race in the Gulf, following the arrival of the sport in Bahrain in 2004. Like Bahrain, Abu Dhabi has invested in Formula 1 as part of its overall tourism and sporting strategy.
Alan Switzer, Director in the Sports Business Group at Deloitte, commented: “In recent years, emerging nations and particularly those in the Gulf region have sought to use sport as a way to raise the profile of their city, country or region. There is no more prestigious global sporting event that a country can host over a single weekend than a Formula 1 Grand Prix. Having two of the 19 Grand Prix in the region demonstrates just how serious the Gulf is about sport, and shows that it is now a top tier sports venue.
“Staging a Grand Prix brings many visitors to a region, both individual tourists drawn by the race and commercial visitors from race teams, sponsors or other partners. This provides a direct opportunity to showcase what a country has to offer. Television coverage of the race brings an indirect opportunity and the Middle East is well placed to maximise exposure in prime European markets with the race starting at 17:00 local time, or 13:00 in the UK.”
In recent years, Dubai has led the way in developing sporting infrastructure in the region. Notably, the Dubai Sports City includes a 60,000 capacity outdoor stadium, a 25,000 capacity cricket stadium, a 10,000 seat indoor arena and a 5,000 seat hockey stadium. In addition, the multi-billion dollar 60,000 capacity Meydan Racecourse in Dubai is due to open in 2010 and promises to boast the best facilities of any racecourse in the world. It will stage the richest race in the world in the Dubai World Cup.
Formula 1 is not the only sport to be attracted to the Gulf region. Next month, England will take on Brazil in an international friendly football match held in Qatar. This is a prestige fixture between two teams that qualified top of their respective World Cup qualifying groups and will be among the favourites at the tournament in South Africa next Summer.
The attraction of high profile international football is another part of the emerging nations sporting strategy. The FIFA Club World Cup will take place in Abu Dhabi in December this year, whilst Qatar has announced its intention to bid for the right to host the FIFA World Cup in either 2018 or 2022.
Further events to take place in the region include;
Switzer said: “The trend for international sporting events taking place in emerging nations is here to stay, and may even increase. Sport is being used as a way to market the hosts to potential new investors or tourists whilst bringing new audiences to the sports themselves. It could become a win-win relationship.”
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