The Last World Cup?
This time last year a wrote an article which was critical of the, then new, Meydan racecourse. (click here)
A year later we again have the sight of the “great and good” of the British racing media flocking to Dubai, filing positive glowing reports as racing once again prostitutes itself at the altar of ostentation and bling. How many of them will also be filing reports about the reality of life in Dubai?
As I stated last year, Meydan racecourse is the Dubai equivalent of the Essex chav building an ostentatious mock Tudor mansion to basically say “look at me I’m rich” to which should be added “but I have no class”.
Meydan racecourse is basically a plaything for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai. Of course it goes without saying he is the unelected leader – a country which has lived beyond its means and teetered on the verge of national bankruptcy a few months ago, no mean achievement for a state sitting on an oil well.
Yet whilst the country teetered on the brink of bankruptcy Sheikh Mohammed was still ploughing millions into his hobby. Apologists make the point that he is spending his own money. That does not hold water as his personal wealth is intrinsically linked to the financial fortune of Dubai itself.
It is interesting when Sheikh Mohammed is in the UK he has all the trappings of a head of state. At Royal Ascot he has the No 1 box with all the appropriate security which goes with it. I suspect he dines on only the best food and he lives a pretty good life. Well good luck to him.
Isn’t it a shame the underclass of workers who built his Meydan racetrack or who build all the plush hotels and buildings in Dubai do not have the same good life? Indeed they have very few freedoms at all, in many cases not even the freedom to return to their own country as they are held a, virtual slaves, paid a pittance and working in conditions where not even lip service is paid to health and safety.
If their conditions are so bad they feel the urge to strike there is the little matter of imprisonment and beatings from the police to be faced.
These modern day slaves are ignored by the locals and ex-pats who live in Dubai – after all it must be uncomfortable for them if they stop and think of the reality.
Sheikh Mohammed and his apologists would have you believe he and his family have built this wonderful metropolis, a Disneyland for adults. Like Disneyland it is all an illusion, unlike Disneyland Dubai has been built by slave labour and that includes Meydan.
There is no freedom of the press in Dubai. If I wrote and published this article in Dubai I would end up in prison. Sheikh Mohammed and his Government are paranoid about negative press. Foreign correspondents based in Dubai can be fined and deported for writing anything critical of the state or its leaders.
A journalist working for Bloomberg was detained on arrival at Dubai airport and after a two-hour grilling about his work was warned to “be careful”.
Fines up to about £100,000 can be imposed for “carrying misleading news that harms the national economy.” There are fines of up to £1m for “insulting” members of the government and the ruling family.
Throughout the middle-east there are rebellions against these unelected dictators. Will there be a rebellion in Dubai, well as long as the money flows in there probably will not be. After all the state of Dubai looks after its own.
To quote one Emirati "This is the best place in the world to be young! The government pays for your education up to PhD level. You get given a free house when you get married. You get free healthcare, and if it's not good enough here, they pay for you to go abroad. You don't even have to pay for your phone calls. Almost everyone has a maid, a nanny, and a driver. And we never pay any taxes. Don't you wish you were Emirati?"
Most Emiratis work for the Government, their employment is secure, indeed there is even legislation in place which makes it almost impossible to sack an Emirati.
So they are not likely to revolt. Well they will not revolt as long as the gravy train trundles along.
Continuing the Disney theme, Dubai is the never-never land. A nation built on debt. It’s national debt is 107% of its GDP. Dubai had to be bailed out by neighbouring Abu-Dhabi, a nation even more conservative and repressive than Dubai.
It is also interesting to note that bankruptcy is not recognised in Dubai. If you get into debt you are thrown into prison. Unless, of course, you are the running class in which case you can put the country into as much debt as you wish with absolute impunity.
At some point the bubble is going to burst and when it does Dubai will go the same way as the other oppressive states in the area.
Much as I love my racing I have no interest in the Dubai World Cup or in any racing staged in Dubai.
Last year I asked both the Government of Dubai and the Dubai Racing Club how many workers died during the construction of Meydan. It goes without saying neither had even the common courtesy to acknowledge the question, yet alone reply.
Sheikh Mohammed reminds me of Nero but instead of fiddling when Rome burns he is playing with horses as Dubai goes bust.
In my mind the prize money on offer at these race meetings is tainted with blood. The blood of the “workers” who have given their lives to build this mirage in the desert. Like a mirage it will disappear, leaving nothing.
Dubai is already an ecological disaster. There is no fresh water, all the water is produced from massive desalination plants. It costs more money to produce a gallon of water in Dubai than it does to produce a gallon of petrol. Move away from the plush six star resorts and you will find the sea awash with raw sewage because the infrastructure cannot cope with the amount being produced.
It is amazing what they don’t tell you in the tourist brochures.
So if you are following this year’s Dubai World Cup enjoy it. It may be the last and if it is I, for one, will be shedding no tears.