Saif Al-Noaimi is always on the move, as befits someone who oversees the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
“I check everything out, over the weekend, and before the weekend,” the chief executive officer of the newly formed events company Ethara, told Arab News.
“It’s part of our quality assurance and control to make sure that all of our products meet our standards and our expectations.”
The F1 season-closing race may be six months away, but already demand for tickets is hot, and, at an event held at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Al-Noaimi has announced several new venues and the identity of three of the post-race performers.
He said: “The demand is unprecedented. We went on sale in February, and within weeks, we were pretty much sold out of the majority of our products.
“And we worked really hard over the last few months to make sure that we don’t disappoint people that are late to buy and have missed out on that, on what was on sale back in February.”
Ethara is the result of a merger between Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management, and Flash Entertainment. In the past, both firms have been involved in putting on some of the UAE’s biggest sporting and entertainment events.
Al-Noaimi pointed out that “integration” was the name of the game.
“Ethara means excitement, and that’s what we’re all about, we’re about delivering events and managing venues, and making moments that matter. That’s our focus.
“So Ethara brings in 300 event and venue specialists under one structure and one umbrella and creates a capability that’s unrivalled in the region.
“If you look at the portfolio of what the team in Ethara has delivered over the 15 years in both ADMM and Flash Entertainment, we’ve delivered over 700 major events. We’ve had over 16 million attendees to these events over the last 15 years.
“And these are large global events, the likes of the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship, FIFA Club World Cup, Asian Football Championship, UFC Fight Island in Abu Dhabi, NBA games in Abu Dhabi, and among those, other national celebrations and festivals.
“So, the capability that this team has, the experience, the expertise doesn’t exist (anywhere else), and creating this company Ethara brings all of that capability in-house, creates experiences, creates the ability to deliver to our guests and to our clients unrivalled experiences,” he added.
In terms of facilities, Ethara will oversee events taking place at what Al-Noaimi described as “four iconic venues.”
He said: “Yas Marina Circuit being the iconic Formula One venue, Etihad Arena, the largest indoor multipurpose arena. Etihad Park, the largest outdoor dedicated venue for concerts, and Yas Conference Center, a multifunction venue.
“So, bringing all these capabilities under one organization gives us an amazing ability and we’re really excited to see what comes out of this.”
Ethara will also continue to expand operations beyond the UAE capital, and already has established offices in Dubai and Riyadh.
“Both are very interesting markets for us. Obviously, Dubai is right next door to us. And the kingdom is a growing market for events. What’s happened there in the last few years is unbelievable and very exciting. We want to be part of that growth in that journey,” Al-Noaimi added.
One of the biggest draws to Abu Dhabi in recent years has been UFC, and the world’s biggest mixed martial arts organization will be back in Abu Dhabi on Oct. 21. UFC 294 at Yas Island will part of a long-term deal launched in 2019 between the UAE capital and the organizers.
Al-Noaimi said it was a partnership that would continue to grow.
“I think Abu Dhabi, and Yas Island specifically, has demonstrated its commitment to UFC and throughout the last three years delivered on the capability, starting with FI during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As you know, one of the first and biggest events to take place was UFC Fight Island on Yas Island. There’s a fantastic partnership that exists and we’re looking to continue and grow that,” he added.
The first ever NBA Abu Dhabi Games, which took place last year between Atlanta Hawks and Milwaukee Bucks at Etihad Arena, will also return in October, this time between the Dallas Mavericks and Minnesota Timberwolves.
But it is the announcement of the post-race music concerts that has got fans excited for the 2023 edition of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Alongside US singer Ava Max and Dutch DJ Tiesto on Thursday, Nov. 23, the post-race Sunday headlining act at Etihad Park is set to be American rock band the Foo Fighters, who had been due to play Abu Dhabi in 2021 but had to pull out at a late stage.
Now they are coming back to the city and Al-Noaimi said it had not been a difficult decision for all concerned.
“They wanted to come back. They wanted to deliver the promise to their fans, because a lot of people were very excited in 2021. And yet because of unforeseen circumstances they were unable to make it to the Grand Prix. We’re really excited to have them back,” he added.
The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix remains the jewel in Ethara’s crown, and the viewer experience is set to be enhanced again this year.
Al-Noaimi said: “We worked really hard to create new and unique experiences, completely different perspectives of the race, areas that we’ve never done.”
For example, new areas would be created at turn two offering “fantastic new views and great new experiences.”
The additions will allow racegoers to watch the action from new locations, including a VIP perspective at Turn 2 and Deck at Two, featuring global culinary brands, Hakkasan, Nobu, and Milos.
“And at hillside terrace, we have The Main, another unique restaurant. So, these are experiences you can only get at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.”
Also on sale are tickets to the new West Straight Grandstand, which will allow fans to follow the action at the end of the longest straight at Yas Marina Circuit between turns six and seven.
On the expected attendance, Al-Noaimi said: “It’s going to be a record number. Last year was a record number for us. So, this year, we’re doing everything we did last year, plus the additions.
“I’d say we’re growing by about 5,000 more daily attendees than we had last year.”