The last time I visited the Kingdom of Dubai was 1989 when the population numbered just 444,000. Today that figure has risen to 3.3 million, transforming this coastal conurbation into the most populated city in the AEU.
Built upon the proceeds from oil, today less than 5% of the Emirates revenue comes from oil, relying now on trade, tourism, aviation, real estate and financial services, to create the wealth and employment.
On Friday some 2,500 Triathletes from 101 countries worldwide, set off for the 2020 Dubai Iron Man, cheered on by around 20,000 spectators of which I was one.
The race began with the swim; a quick sprint into the sea as the sun rose above the horizon. This first section, a 9 km dash out into the Arabian Gulf, around the marker buoys and back to shore.
As they returned to the beach they struggled to get their bearings with the low sun shining directly into their eyes. From there onwards through the transition arena as they stripped off wet suits as they ran, dashing towards their waiting racing bikes.
With cycle shoes already strapped to the pedals, they grab helmets and glasses.
As they set off on the next leg, a 90 km course due west into the desert along a deserted motorway, they settle into a steady rhythm but determined to inch ahead of those they set off alongside.
Each are driven to make good time; in my son Matthew’s case, he was aiming for an overall time of under 5.5 hours to achieve a personal best. He also hoped to qualify for the World Championship Iron Man in New Zealand in November.
The wait for the riders to return from the desert had its moments. The place was awash with over excited supporters, and enthusiastic organisers determined that we should be kept abreast of what was going on.
The noise from the music and announcements is ear shattering and relentless but nothing was going to drive us away from being in the right spot at the right time to cheer our ‘Iron Man’ on, as they arrive back approximately 2 hours later.
They abandon their precious racing bikes and quickly transition to the final change into running shoes for the last leg. This being the 21.1 km half marathon along the coast road, part of which they loop twice before returning to the Finish - exhausted but triumphant.
My Iron Man did indeed achieve his personal best. Not only did he finish sub 5.5 hours, but he slipped over the finishing line in under 5 hours – 16th place out of 186 in his age group, and 117th out of 1,105 overall.
We had left behind the UK’s poor mobile connections, road works littering the rubbish strewn M23 as they install the ‘not so smart’ smart motorway, and poor signage to Gatwick.
Arriving in Dubai you are automatically connected to the Wi-Fi and internet where ever you go. Including way out in the desert, keeping us connected to the rest of the world and indeed each other. How different to our poor connectivity in the UK.
However, is Huawei really the answer? Should we hand over control of our state security and entire networks to the Chinese government? Or should we wait until less toxic and manipulative state controlled independent companies catch up with the technology?
If the Chinese can build a brand new thousand bed hospital in just over a week to cope with the Coronavirus, perhaps we should take a leaf out of their book. We must speed up building vital infrastructure and developments. Sadly chance would be a fine thing with our current planning laws.