Sheikh Mohammad leaving MeydanWith the official opening of the largest horse race track and Grandstand Meydan in Dubai, Sheikh Mohammad, the ruler of Dubai completed another visionary plan in putting Dubai with splendor onto the World map.
“Today I proudly unveil what I hope will be seen as the world’s premier racecourse here in the UAE and welcome race goers and competitors from all over the world for what is by far the most valuable race program ever staged in the history of horse racing,” Sheikh Mohammad said.
Sir Elton John Live at MeydanSuch is the backdrop as Meydan prepares to welcome a crowd of – they hope – around 50,000 for today’s Dubai World Cup. In addition to the $10m main event, there is another $16m spread over the six supporting thoroughbred events, including two on the turf track worth $5m apiece. Twenty-six million dollars in search of a new home – there has never been a race meeting quite like it. Some of the money will be staying in Dubai, as the Sheikh’s Godolphin racing operation fields runners throughout the card, and will hope to achieve at least one morale-boosting victory, though probably not in one of the top three events. The bulk of the cash, though, seems marked for export, to South Africa, Japan or Europe, which some will see as another sign of the way things are going in Dubai. Elton John and Carlos Santana, booked to play at a concert after racing, are also likely to be leaving town with a seven-figure sum in the bank. What Sheikh Mohammed, and Dubai as a whole, will be hoping for is a sign that, in the words of Frank Gabriel, the chief executive of the Dubai Racing Club, who has overseen the entire project: “We’ve had problems, but we went through it.”
As Gabriel points out: “We’ve gone at a very fast pace [to build the track], but we were always conscious of what we were trying to do. This facility is a race track, but we also want it to be a destination year-round, so we also have facilities like the Meydan hotel that will be attractive not only during the racing season.There is a smell at Meydan racecourse that is difficult to escape. It is not horses, or flowers, or the smell of the desert carried in on the hot, dry breeze. It is wet paint, bucketloads of it, being applied in a desperate rush to get the world’s biggest racecourse as ready as it can be for its official opening tonight. No end of people have laid eyes on Meydan for the first time this week and immediately described it as “one of the wonders of the world”. In many senses, they are right. It has been built in three years, by a great army of migrant labourers on breadline wages, who are unlikely to get so much as a nod of acknowledgement at the lavish opening ceremony. It is about to stage the most valuable card in racing history. And it is simply immense, a towering glass edifice that is almost too bright to behold when its windows catch the morning sun. Yet behind the shiny exterior there are scaffolds still up and floors going down, and flights of stairs in the car park that turn a corner and then stop in mid-air. Bling and glitz that hide the problems beneath: as a paradigm for Dubai, it just seems too easy. So much has changed here since Sheikh Mohammad, right, Dubai’s ruler, unveiled the plans for Meydan at a party beside the Burj Al Arab, his iconic hotel by the Gulf, in March 2007. Gates to Meydan opened to the public at 12 pm, with the first race at 4pm. Throughout the day, performances across all entrances and Apron Views at Meydan took place, and these acts ranged from music and dance performances to fire and light shows. Performances included bubble dancers, stilt walkers, caricaturists, light cube shows, human and adagio statues, unicyclists, Arabic fusion bands, jazz quartets, flamenco guitarists, breakdancers, comedy acts, fire shows, a police band, magicians, and belly dancers.
The highlight of the evening is undoubtably the namesake race which is last on the cards and occurs approximately at 9:45 pm. With a US$10 million purse and 14 of the world’s top thoroughbreds vying to be crowned the first-ever Dubai World Cup champion at Meydan, this will be one of the most exciting 2 minutes of anyone’s sporting experience.
Catering for the crowd was done by Jumeirah GroupThe pinnacle of Dubai’s racing calendar, the Dubai World Cup is the richest race meet in the world with a total purse of $26.25 million on offer for an eight-race card, of which $10 million was up for grabs for the Dubai World Cup alone. The new Meydan Grandstand and racecourse set new standards in luxury and propelled UAE’s horseracing scene to greater heights on the global arena. Equipped with first-class hospitality offerings and state-of-the-art racing facilities, the Meydan racecourse is unlike any other in the world. Its most outstanding feature is the Grandstand, an architectural feat featuring a crescent-shaped roof clad with solar panels. The Grandstand spans 1.5km and can accommodate up to 60,000 guests. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fnydP30ccMM Other key points of the ceremony included equine and falcon performances, micro light and aerial displays, as well as a breathtaking pyro display by world-renowned The Gruccis of New York. Widely recognised as the leading pyrotechnics and firworks company in the world, Gruccis has been responsible for landmark displays across seven consecutive U.S. presidential inaugurations and most recently the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.