Malcolm Thorpe was enjoying lunch on the second floor of the Els Club’s temporary clubhouse in Dubai. With plenty on his plate, both literally and figuratively, the director of marketing for sports business at Dubai Sports City (DSC) appeared both focused and tired. Behind him was a clear view of a five-hundred-yard, two-sided driving range, standing out like a luscious green meadow in the middle of a bustling construction site. Visible through the sandy desert air was a sea of cranes coming together to build one of the most ambitious sports developments the world had ever seen. Glowing from amidst the cranes was a nearly finished cricket stadium that a month later would host the venue’s first major event, a Pakistan-Australia match. Although the match had already been scheduled prior to a terrorism incident that took place in Lahore, DSC would effectively serve as the temporary de facto home for the Pakistani cricket team during 2009 due to the attacks.
To Thorpe’s left, flanking an Ernie Els-designed golf course, stood the shells of a series of sprawling villas that were 80 percent sold despite the global financial crisis of 2008-10. Large residential towers were sprouting up further to his left, which were intended to be surrounded by a canal, two retail complexes, and a variety of sports facilities that would rival those from any large American city. The temporary clubhouse itself was as luxurious and modern as any upscale U.S. country club. The setting truly gave meaning to DSC’s slogan of “Live Sport.” Thorpe had plenty to be concerned about though. The economic climate had delayed the opening of many of DSC’s venues. There had been general governmental pressure on developers throughout Dubai to build many of the world’s most grandiose projects as quickly as possible. But in 2009, credit was tight, and some projects would have to wait.