Sunday, January 3, 2010

At the opening of the Burj Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper, there were 10,000 fireworks, a dancing fountain, traditional Emirati dancers, skydivers and an impressive light show — but the biggest surprise of the evening came from Dubai’s ruler, Sheik Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Shortly after making his signature entrance in his white G55 Mercedes, number plate 1, Sheik Mohammed stopped to make a brief speech, saying that the tower, which has so far been known as Burj Dubai, would be renamed Burj Khalifa, after the president of the United Arab Emirates and emir of Abu Dhabi, Sheik Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahayan. It is perhaps the most expensive naming rights deal in history and likely a reward for Abu Dhabi’s $10 billion bailout of Dubai in December after the emirate admitted it was struggling to deal with more than $80 billion of debt.

Once the initial shock had settled, the audience was then treated to a dramatic fireworks and light show around the mammoth structure. A series of skydivers branded in the country’s national colors dropped from the sky to kick off the celebrations, followed by a video showing the construction of the tower and its exact height of 828 meters (2,716 feet), which had previously been kept under wraps.

Spectacular fireworks lit the length of the tower, while the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest water feature, danced and played traditional Arabic music. The event was a reminder of what Dubai does best. But what is likely to stick in the mind of those watching is that Abu Dhabi had paid for the festivities.

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