TBY talks to two industry experts on what makes the Emirate a center for golf and racing, environmental challenges, and the future of the sports sector.
What makes Dubai so attractive as a golfing destination?
CHRISTOPHER MAY Dubai has some of the best golf courses in the world, and every year there are some major tournaments hosted here. These include the DP World Tour Championship and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, which is in its 24th year and attracts some of the best players in the world. Previous winners of the Omega Dubai Desert Classic have included golfing greats such as Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, and Fred Couples. The golf courses and the quality of service is a big driver, but we can also not forget that there are great hotels, great shopping facilities, and great airlines. As a total package, Dubai is a very attractive golfing destination, proven by the growing numbers of people coming to the region specifically to play golf.
What makes racing such an inherent part of the local spirit?
FRANK GABRIEL The history of the Thoroughbred is closely linked to the GCC region by the three original Arabian stallions that helped to develop the breed. All Thoroughbreds trace their lineage to one of these three Arabian stallions; the Godolphin, the Darley, or the Bylery Turk. The Maktoum family, headed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has a long history in horse racing. This dates to 1967 when Sheikh Mohammed and Sheikh Hamdan attended their first race in Newmarket. That was the seed that has grown to include the success of Dubai Racing Club (DRC).
How sustainably can you run a grass golf course in this part of the world?
CM If you go back to the very beginning, desalinated water was used to irrigate the courses. We now use only a very small amount of desalinated water—98% of the water that we use to irrigate is now treated sewage effluent (TSE), and that is something that we worked hard to achieve with Dubai Municipality. It really is the right thing to do, and with population growth we are now able to do that. It has reduced our carbon footprint significantly, and it has reduced the cost of operation also, but it is still a very expensive part of our business, because we use a lot of water. But using TSE is something that is a lot greener, and putting in a new irrigation system will mean that we will use a lot less water.
How do the unique environmental challenges here affect how you run the racing calendar?
FG Due to the climate we are limited to racing from November through to March, but this is also to our benefit. This time of year is the perfect window to attract horses from Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore, and South America. In 2013 DRC will celebrate the 10th year of the Dubai World Cup Carnival, which is a season of racing that attracts some of the greatest horses in racing. It is 10 race nights, from the first week in January and leading up to the Dubai World Cup, and the carnival annually attracts over 250 horses from 15 different countries training and racing here in Dubai for two to three months. Not only do we attract the horses, but their owners and trainers from all over the world are also staying in Dubai from a few weeks up to three or four months. This is because of the quality of the facilities, the racing, and the prize money, with over $10 million offered during the 10 nights of the Dubai World Cup Carnival. The weather and the quality of our racing combine to create what is the best season for horses and the horsemen. The success of the racing serves to increase the awareness of Dubai and the UAE.
What does the future hold?
CM Grass golf courses have been in existence here for just 24 years, and there has been huge development and a huge amount of growth. Yes, there is still a lot of growth to happen, and there have been a lot of new golf courses built in the last five years, but with 50,000 rounds of golf being played in March 2012, the industry is looking strong.
FG The goal of the DRC is to maintain the highest standards of racing by attracting some of the world’s greatest horses and horsemen to compete in the racing seasons held at Meydan. The success of the DRC goes beyond the success of Dubai World Cup night. We are working to provide entertainment and racing as a sport that will not only attract the current fans that have a love for racing, but also spectators who are looking to experience racing for the first time.
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