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F1 Race Test Of Abu Dhabi's Capability To Host Big Int'l Events

Officials Hoping Sunday's F1 Race Can
Put UAE On Map For Hosting Big Int'l Events
Sunday's F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which concludes the '09 season, in some ways will be Abu Dhabi's "first test -- offering a glimpse of whether it can deliver on time with the capacity to host an international event," according to Andrew England in a special section on Abu Dhabi in today's FINANCIAL TIMES. The race will be held at the new Yas Marina Circuit, a "gleaming centerpiece ... deep inside" Yas Island that features a "grand prix track, a 43,000-seat grandstand and a clutch of new hotels." The track is Abu Dhabi's "first megaproject," and officials insist that Sunday's race is "about more than just a race." England: "To them it is about developing infrastructure and the hope that the event will be a step toward putting ... the United Arab Emirates on the map." Abu Dhabi Exec Affairs Authority Chair Khaldoon al-Mubarak: "The grand prix, to a certain extent, was used as a line in the sand" (FINANCIAL TIMES, 10/29). The Abu Dhabi NATIONAL's Roland Hughes noted the design plan for the Yas Marina Circuit followed by developer Aldar "changed over time, but the finished project is something the company and the race organisers believe will be the definitive Formula One track." Aldar Dir of Mixed Use Development Steve Worrell said that the track was a "unique undertaking in that the facility was built in a previously undeveloped area." Worrell: "There are some benefits to working on a completely blank canvas, limited disruption of the local area, no existing construction to work around. (But) we did have to develop this project from virtual desert to what could be described as a functioning town, with the entire infrastructure required." Hughes noted "soon after the race, the next stage of Project Yas will begin." The Yas Yacht Club will be "completed later this year, as will the Yas Links Golf Course, the country's first links course" (Abu Dhabi NATIONAL, 10/28).

END OF AN ERA? In London, Tom Cary reported the future of the British Grand Prix, "one of the two oldest continuously staged races in the Formula One world championship, remains in the balance, with discussions between" F1 Management Chair Bernie Ecclestone and Silverstone Circuit manager Silverstone Holdings Limited "at a deadlock." Ecclestone is "back negotiating with Silverstone after Donington Park, which had won a 17-year deal to stage the race from next year, failed to raise" the US$222.4M necessary to upgrade the circuit (London TELEGRAPH, 10/27).

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