(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) The United Kingdom expects a large number of UAE residents to descend on London for the 2012 Olympics, says British Ambassador Dominic Jermey, who was in his country's capital last week to help review arrangements for the major sporting event opening on July 27.
"We have about 80,000 UAE residents going to the UK every year, but we are seeing an upswing of over 10 per cent at the moment, year on year, from where we expect to be normally," he said. "I would predict a very significant upswing next week as we come up to the last week heading to the Olympics."
Ambassador Jermey says he has spoken with several individuals arranging for groups of Emiratis to attend the Olympics, particularly the UAE-UK football match taking place on July 29. Though he could not say how many of the 12 million tickets sold for Olympic events went to UAE residents, he confirmed that His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, will represent the UAE at the opening ceremony. With over a hundred heads of state and government expected to attend, the event will be the largest gathering of world leaders ever, says the ambassador.
This year's Olympic games will coincide with the holy month of Ramadan, a challenge which organisers took into consideration from the earliest stages of planning, according to Ambassador Jermey. Among the 200 spiritual advisers working for the Olympics' multi-faith centre, Muslim counsellors are helping ensure that the religiously observant will be accommodated in terms of prayer rooms, halal Iftar provisions, and any other needs they may have. However, UAE Olympians choose to approach Ramadan during the games, he said, "from the London side, we're trying to make sure that everything is there to facilitate people practising their faith".
In any case, the UAE football team will take to the field two days after the Olympics open. Ambassador Jermey may be rooting for the opponents, but he lauds the UAE team's achievement in qualifying for the event for the first time in history.
"When people are saying it's really bad luck for the UAE to draw against the UK on the home turf, at Wembley Stadium, right at the beginning, I don't know if I think it is. There's going to be incredibly strong interest in that. To play against the home country in one of the first matches is great, I think, for the UAE," he said.