(photo credit: Steve Clemons)
A stunning fireworks show and water dance ensemble opened the latest claimant to tallest building in the world in Dubai tonight.
I watched a Reuters reporter work hard to try and convince our hosts for this event to leak him the exact height of the building, which has been a very closely held secret.
But then midway through a video extravaganza about Dubai, its Ruler, the region and what was then known as the Burj Dubai, a wild countdown began of numbers. They stopped at 828 meters, and journalists, bloggers, and tall tower watchers all began telegraphing the revealed height to friends and news bureaus all around the world.
I had the privilege, thanks to extraordinary hospitality, to sit up in the VIP section on the front row couch just to the left of Dubai’s Ruler Sheikh Mohammed and his allies and retainers. I was just about five seats over and down a half step from UAE’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan — who I think is one of the most intellectually agile and interesting foreign policy practitioners in the region. I tried to say hello but a very tall guard wasn’t impressed with me at all — and was unable to connect.
But the night was amazing, the fireworks spectacular, and little dreariness or stress evident among those who might have some exposure to the Dubai government’s economic strains.
In the surprise of the night, the Burj Dubai was officially “renamed” by Dubai’s ruler as the “Burj Khalifa” — named after the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. Optimists and loyal Dubai and UAE patriots think that the name change was evidence of the Dubai ruler’s magnanimity, appreciation for the leadership of the UAE’s president who is also a relative, and a sign of the Emirates’ federation coming closer together.
Cynics and realists think that the name change reflected the political realities that Abu Dhabi helped bail out Sheikh Mohammed’s debt-ridden holding company, Dubai World.
I wonder if the web address “http://www.burjdubai.com/” will change to “http://www.burjkhalifa.com/”.
Just tried it — doesn’t work yet…though someone has just recently acquired the websites for both “burjkhalifa.com” and “burjkhalifa.net”.
Regardless of what inspired the renaming gesture, the night was great — but I have to sleep now as catching a plane in a few hours to San Francisco.
More on Dubai when I get to California — where I’m going to chat to a bunch of folks about the State of California’s political reform challenges and how new media might play a role in connecting new and diverse audiences to those questions. If you have thoughts on that front, email me.
— Steve Clemons