DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Greg Norman said Tuesday he hopes Dubai’s financial woes and a previous decision to deny entry to an Israeli tennis player won’t overshadow plans to bring golf’s European Tour finale to the Middle East city.
Norman, who designed the course that will be used for the Dubai World Championship, said he expects the publicity and television coverage of the event will “show Dubai and golf in the right light.”
“Hopefully there isn’t any of this sideline activity that happened with some athletes in a previous tennis event,” he told reporters after visiting a course he designed on the desert outskirts of the city. “Nobody really wants to go there.”
Dubai, one of seven semiautonomous sheikdoms that comprise the United Arab Emirates, has succeeded in boosting its global reputation in part by investing heavily in sports events such as the Dubai Desert Classic and the Dubai Tennis Championships.
The city-state is now being hit hard by the economic downturn, threatening its closely preserved image.
Dubai came under sharp international criticism earlier this year after UAE officials denied a visa to Israeli female player Shahar Peer for the Dubai Tennis Classic. A subsequent decision to allow male Israeli player Andy Ram into the country helped calm the controversy.
Still, the flap proved costly. Organizers were hit with a record $300,000 fine from the Women’s Tennis Association. The Wall Street Journal Europe dropped its sponsorship and the Tennis Channel canceled plans to air the tournament in protest.
David Garland, director of tour operations for the PGA European Tour, said the organization always obeys local laws but did not expect any problems when players tee off in Dubai on Nov. 19.
“We are very confident there won’t be any issues with any of our members,” he said.
Dubai’s new “Earth” course, designed by Norman and developed by state-owned sports company Leisurecorp, will play host to the final tournament of the European Tour beginning this year. The tour’s top 60 players will have a chance to compete for a $10 million purse.