Since my visit to the F1 Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi the other week my team and I have been flat out preparing for a test of our Aruba and Juniper solution at Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi. That and Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium (aka Al Jazira Club) are the hosts to the 2009 FIFA Club World Cup. To test the readiness of IT and other areas of the event, such as security, ticketing, media, etc, Abu Dhabi hosted a friendly football match between Manchester City and the UAE national team.

Many will know that Abu Dhabi owns Manchester City football team so the match slogan was quite aptly; "Our Country Vs Our City". This test event conveniently tested the local organising committee's readiness for the FIFA event between 9 and 19 December and it put our IT project and all other projects under pressure to be ready prior to the main event. The UAE won the friendly 1-0.

Zayed Sports City Stadium was a very run down venue built over 25 years ago. Until local financial giant Mubadala (the stadium owner) pumped huge sums of cash into its restoration and see it stand the test of the Man City V UAE match.

Kilometres of cable were laid throughout the stadium and our IT architecture was built on Juniper and Aruba hardware. The system in now live with a 100MB Internet link being upgraded to 400MB next week and the phenomenal Aruba outdoor wireless access points are ready to enable 100's of the world's photographers to upload the media files from camera or laptop to their FTP servers back at their HQs.

At the F1 event a few weeks ago, the local organising committee purchased an asymmetric Internet link of 150MB from the primary telco in the UAE, Etisalat. During the event, they discovered that this was insufficient for F1 and the huge media attention which Abu Dhabi attracted to its inaugural event. Based on our test event monitoring results, numbers of photographers and other factors, our 400MB link will be more than adequate, albeit at a hefty price tag.

By the way, Etisalat last week announced a three year deal to sponsor Man City, joining the UAE national airline Etihad on the shirts. It was interesting to observe a sudden increase in the customer service we received from Etisalat when this happened! Man City is now without a doubt, one of the most cash-rich clubs in the world.

As we draw closer to the big FIFA event, temporary structures such as VIP marquees, media tents, security points, etc, all need ICT. So whilst we have transformed everything from the players' changing rooms to the pitch side with a superior facility of wireless and fixed Internet, a lot of last minute work remains to be done.

This is just another example of how the visionaries of Abu Dhabi are attracting some of the highest profile events in the world to the oil rich region. But money and vision alone are not enough. The ability to transform those strategies into reality remains key to delivering excellence.

This weekend's major sporting event here in Abu Dhabi is the 5th round of the Class 1 World Powerboat Racing Championships. I spent an hour with His Excellency Sheikh Hassan bin Jabor Al Thani of Qatar last month in Bahrain. He has been a top competitor in the series and tough competition for the world famous Victory Team from Dubai. I got the lowdown on what was happening in that event from Sheikh Hassan as we watched the Bahrain round of the F2 catamaran powerboat racing championships together at Amwaj Islands...but that's another story.

By Rob Llewellyn ::