Debt might derail big events in Dubai

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates --- Dubai's ability to play host to big-money events in tennis, golf and horse racing is coming under scrutiny as the emirate struggles with massive debt.


Many wonder whether the Persian Gulf sheikdom can afford to continue bankrolling high-profile events that offer lucrative prize money.

"I suspect there could be slight cuts in prize money," said Sean Ennis, a professor of sports marketing at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

Dubai could attempt to re-negotiate its initial commitments to some events, particularly in golf, Ennis added, but "my gut feeling is that the upcoming tournaments will go ahead as planned."

Dubai has worked hard to build itself into a financial power, pouring billions into tourism, entertainment and sports. The buildup has raised Dubai's international profile and led the emirate to consider bidding for the 2020 Olympics.

The sports boom even attracted Tiger Woods to Dubai -- to play and invest in a course bearing his name.

The 18-hole, par-72 course was designed by Woods and became one of Dubai's best-known sports projects. The first phase of the $1 billion layout was set to open by the end of the year. However, months before Woods' personal life unraveled, his business dealings with Dubai stalled. The opening was delayed for at least six months, with Woods declaring in June it was all "out of my hands."

The debt crisis put a question mark over Dubai's ability to continue staging the world's richest horse race -- the Dubai World Cup -- and playing host to lucrative ATP and WTA tennis tournaments and European Tour golf events.

Dubai sports officials did not respond to requests by The Associated Press to confirm the status and prize money of the upcoming events.

The Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament is scheduled to begin Feb. 1. Woods, who is taking an indefinite break from golf to try to repair his marriage, was scheduled to play the event again in 2010. He has played the Dubai tournament eight times and won twice.

The prize money for WTA and ATP tournaments have not been made public so far. Organizers of the upcoming Dubai Marathon, however, are offering the winner a $1 million bonus -- on top of a $250,000 prize -- for breaking the world record.

Earlier this week, neighboring Abu Dhabi injected $10 billion into Dubai's battered economy, sparing the emirate the humiliation of a potential default by its main development engine, Dubai World.


LONDON --- If Tiger Woods and his Swedish wife get divorced, Elin Nordegren won't be the only one collecting on the settlement.

British bookmaker William Hill is taking bets on just how much Nordegren will get if she decides to divorce the world's No. 1 golfer, who is taking an indefinite break from the sport after admitting to infidelities.

As the scandal widens, bettors can get 25-1 odds that Nordegren will receive more than half a billion dollars in a divorce settlement. The odds drop to 6-4 for a settlement under $100 million.

William Hill spokesman Rupert Adams said the company had been taking bets on whether the couple would get divorced at all, but took the market down because it was too one-sided with people betting on divorce.

-- Associated Press



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