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Business Home > Opinion Analysis
Olympics? Yes, the UAE can!

Michael Lahyani (Property Focus) / 5 August 2012

Along with about one billion people around the world, I too watched the recent opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London.

In fact, I was lucky enough to be in the English capital during the opening week and was pretty impressed at how well the Brits managed the huge influx of people. The city was far from being as chaotic and congested as some people had predicted as many residents had left the city centre before the games began.

There is no doubt that this mammoth competition represents the pinnacle of human achievement and turns the global spotlight fully on to the host nation. But what about the side effects of hosting a mega sporting event like this on the city itself? How does it affect things like property prices and the fortunes of surrounding neighbourhoods?

This region is going to have to ponder these questions closely over the next few years with Qatar set to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022 and, closer to home, the UAE’s rumoured bid for the 2024 Olympic Games — a truly awesome prospect. Recent UK real estate reports have stated that homes near to the main site of the Olympic games have increased in value by nearly £70,000 (Dh401,800) since London was awarded the games seven years ago. Once shabby areas such as Stratford have been transformed thanks to huge cash injections and aggressive global marketing — although some in the British press argue that the development of these areas has literally bulldozed their history into oblivion. Not everyone welcomes change, after all.

But the real Olympic legacy for the London property market may well only be seen long after the closing ceremony as the dramatic transformation of the capital is completed. Investors who were quick to act when the win was announced have reaped big rewards and will undoubtedly continue to do so.

As part of Qatar’s huge $42.9 billion (Dh157,600 billion) World Cup development plan, it has hired leading architects to design 12 open-air, grass field stadiums that will be kept below 81° Celsius by pumping cool air through vents. So, the race is now on to develop the country’s entire infrastructure and build, build, build in time for the arrival of the world.

With regards to Dubai, a feasibility study into the emirate’s capability for hosting the Olympic Games has already concluded that as much of 70 per cent of the infrastructure needed was now in place or planned and that a bid for 2024 could be successful. As someone who works at the centre of the region’s property industry and who has witnessed the amazing development feats that the UAE has performed one after another, I feel sure that not only could the country pull off an Olympic event — but would do so with typical flair.

And it would surely impact the local market on a dramatic scale as businesses rushed to grab a piece of the action and neighbourhoods close to shiny new Olympic facilities bathed in the reflected glory. But this all conjecture and the stuff of real estate daydreams. We’ll just have to wait patiently and see.

Michael Lahyani is the CEO and founder of propertyfinder.ae. The views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper’s policy.


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