Golf, cricket are capital fare for Abu Dhabi: Talking Point

Who knows what's next on the sporting menu for the UAE's capital.

Gulf News

If the second Test in Abu Dhabi finishes even a day early, you may find the likes of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen popping to Abu Dhabi Golf Club to follow the fortunes of Luke Donald and company. It's located just on the outskirts of the capital, where there is a heady sporting weekend on offer.

Beneath its somewhat laid-back exterior, Abu Dhabi has really grown leaps and bounds as a major sporting hub in the Gulf — and a ringing endorsement of this came from Rory McIlroy the other day. The world No 3 says he has seen the place ‘evolve' with each visit with the addition of properties like the Yas and Sadiyaat Islands and, speaking from personal experience, he is spot-on.

A look at the marquee line-up in this year's golf championship makes it difficult to believe that, as recently as in 2005, the only international golf event in the capital was the world sand golf championship at Al Ghazal.

This weekend sports fans have a choice between the exploits of Luke Donald, McIlroy and the iconic Tiger Woods and the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Misbah-ul-Haq.

If Dubai has shown the way for tapping into the enormous potential of leisure tourism with a world-class tournament and signature golf courses, Abu Dhabi has certainly taken up the cue with the likes of Yas Links and Sadiyaat. For a small country like the UAE, it's no mean achievement to play host to three European Tour events.

Working a miracle

Looking back, it's been the last six years which have seen Abu Dhabi work a miracle in terms of establishing a place on the world's sporting map and building some impressive infrastructure. When the announcement came in early 2007 that Abu Dhabi had been awarded a Formula One Grand Prix in 2009, there were huge doubts about whether everything would be ready in time.

Building a Formula One race track can be a logistical nightmare and, as the Yas started taking shape, the critics were left gaping at the magnitude of the task undertaken in such a short period of time. It was a special moment when the merchants of speed revved up for the only day-night race on the calendar.

The addition of at least one major cricket series annually, thanks to the UAE being considered as the ‘home' of Pakistan, has come as a boon for the huge expat audience — not to mention hosting two Fifa World Club Cups and being the nerve centre of Manchester City.

Who knows what's next on the sporting menu for the UAE's capital.