Here we are, on the 10th of October, with 59 days to go until the launch of the Muscat Asian Beach Games.
The clock is ticking, and work is well under way at the venues, and I have faith that the facilities will be completed on time for the games - just in time.
But I have learned some rather disturbing pieces of information in recent weeks. There is no way for me to fully verify them and so I'm sure there will be additional pieces of information to this story that may make it more understandable... please do comment.
Have you tried to book a hotel in Muscat during the games? You may find it hard to do so as many hotels have had their rooms block-booked by the Ministry of Tourism. Why have they done this? They did this to accommodate the more than 1500 registered athletes from 45 countries who are due to compete in the games. The nice hotel and apartment building that has been built at the main facility is not going to accommodate any of the athletes - it's all being used by VIP's and sponsors - I guess that makes sense, because then you'd be into a favouritism argument if one team gets accommodation over another team, etc. etc.
In fact, of the 7 athlete accommodation buildings that were planned, only 1 has been built. Of a reported $100,000,000 budget assigned to the MABGOC (Muscat Asian Beach Games Organizing Committee), reportedly over 80% of it has been spent on the hotel and apartment complex that is really being handled by OMRAN (ok that does make some sense because MABGOC would have no experience in construction procurement).
It is certainly food for thought: Why Mussanah? Why re-invent the wheel and focus most efforts on building a hotel and apartment building in the middle of nowhere, when existing facilities within Muscat could have easily been adapted and expanded upon to meet the needs of the games. A hotel could have been built at Mussanah by OMRAN to a 4* standard for a lot less than $80 million.
On another point - have you actually visited the site of the Games? Imagine the traffic nightmare that is bound to happen when people try and attend.... to date I have not seen any modifications to the roads or signage, or the motorway access and egress (a simple round about). I hope the ROP will step in and control the traffic otherwise it'll be the pandemonium that we see in Ghala every day. Traffic issues will be compounded by the fact that the athletes will also have to drive in and out of the venue as well.
It is good that other parts of Oman are benefiting from the Games, but it is unfortunate that the facilities being constructed have left little choice for the athletes but to stay in hotel rooms, which the teams themselves are reportedly expected to pay for themselves (I understand that some rooms will be provided for free by the MABGOC, but not all).
One does have to ask the question: Why do countries bid for and compete to host major sporting events? The answer (among many answers) is to do with promoting tourism to that country, and in this case, getting Oman noticed on the world stage as a future host of other major international events. Oman is a truly unique treasure: It's got golden sandy beaches, mangroves, mountains and desert dunes all within 90 minutes of each other, and lets not even get started on the beautiful areas in the Dhofar region and the interior regions. And yet, many supporters hoping to travel with their countries teams will find it hard to secure a place to stay during the Games.
In general, it does look as if the athletes requirements have perhaps been balanced against getting the hotel and apartments finished at Mussanah. And as for the spectators, well the spectators information section on the official website informs us, "Spectator’s Services information will be made available in the months leading up to the Game" - well seeing that there is less than 2 months to go until the "Game" begins, this website is now out of date.
What do you think about the Asian Beach Games? Will you be attending? Do you think Oman will benefit from this event?