Camel races planned for Munich’s Theresienwiese
Germany - Middle East - The Guardian

Camel races planned for Munich’s Theresienwiese

Six Gulf states want to host race meeting in area where Oktoberfest is held during five-day event called 1,001 Nights.

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A dispute has erupted in Munich over six Gulf states’ plan to host a camel race on the city’s Theresienwiese, the huge open space where the Oktoberfest is held every year.

If they go ahead, the races would be held in July 2015 during a five-day spectacle entitled 1,001 Nights: Orient meets Occident, organised by the Gulf Cooperation Council (comprising Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Oman) as well as Bavarian event manager Robert Wagner.

According to the organisers, it would be the first time that a full-scale camel race was held outside the Arabian peninsula. As has become common, the camels would be ridden by robot jockeys remotely controlled from cars that run alongside the track.

1,001 Nights will require the construction of a 1.1-mile (1.8km) circuit around pavilions showcasing each of the six countries, made with 9,000 tonnes of sand. The event is meant to promote the Expo 2020 in Dubai and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

But while the project was initially welcomed by Munich’s deputy mayor, Josef Schmid – who is also in charge of tourism – a number of residents have voiced resistance. Environmentalists are concerned about the carbon footprint created by transporting an estimated 370 lorry loads of sand, and a local gay rights group insisted that gay and women’s rights in the Gulf states should be highlighted at the event.

Wolfgang Nickl, spokesman for Munich’s economy department, confirmed that the request to hold the event had been made but was sceptical it would be approved.

He said: “The local committees all expressed themselves negatively. The burdens for the local population through the setting up and dismantling the Oktoberfest is already very high.”

Sternest resistance is likely to come from Bavarian traditionalists. Local authorities are usually resistant to any events being held on the Theresienwiese other than Munich’s three main public festivals – the biggest of which is the beer-fuelled Oktoberfest.

Munich, with its variety of luxury shops, is a favourite European destination for Gulf-state tourists.