Abu Dhabi dives deep for another world record
ABU DHABI // Scuba divers plunged the depths of the city’s ports yesterday in an attempt to break the record for the world’s largest underwater clean-up.
Organised by Abu Dhabi Ports Company together with Abu Dhabi Marine Operating Company, the clean-up covered Abu Dhabi’s Free Port, the New Free Port, the nearby Fisherman’s Port, Zayed Port and Das Island.
The effort, which took place over the course of 24 hours, started in the early hours of yesterday morning.
The goal, said organisers, was to secure the participation of 250 certified divers by this morning as they claimed this would be a world record.
The clean-up also aimed to raise awareness of the negative impact of underwater debris.
According to information from the National Park Service in the United states, a plastic drinks bottle would need 450 years to decompose in the ocean, while even items as harmless as a paper towel could take up to four weeks.
By midday yesterday, 214 volunteers had already registered.
Among them was Lee Becker, 36, an ice hockey equipment manager from Abu Dhabi.
This was the first underwater clean-up for the Canadian, who first took-up diving 18 months ago.
“There was a lot of big waste where we were,” said Mr Becker, referring to large vehicle tyres and old metal pipes, he had seen underwater.
While he could not haul the bulky items – a job volunteers were instructed to leave for a professional crew – he surfaced with a bag full of plastic debris and disused fishing lines and netting.
Mr Becker thought some of waste must have come from ships visiting the port but believed members of the public were also guilty of littering the ocean, he said.
“You see a fair bit [of waste] and being on boats, you see a bit of carelessness there too, unless it is enforced by the diving centre,” he said.
Giant leap off Burj Khalifa in Dubai: French daredevils break Base jump world record
DUBAI // Two daredevils have broken a Guinness World Record for the highest Base jump from a building after leaping off the world’s tallest building.
Vince Reffet and Fred Fugen, from France, plunged from a platform made especially for this jump at the top of the 828-metre Burj Khalifa.
Both trained for a year to make the jump. “When I came to Dubai for the first time and I saw the tower I said: ‘this is the dream, the highest building in the world’,” said Mr Reffet in a video released by Skydive Dubai, which sponsored the jump.
“We don’t like to scare ourselves, that’s not the goal,” explained his teammate Fred Fugen.
“People think that you Base jump because you’re crazy, you like to get scared. We like to fly, we like to have fun. If you are scared; if you scare yourself, there is no fun.”
To the words of “Ready, Set” both men jumped off the platform. The orange smoke streaming out of their shoes left a trail to mark their descent as they clasped hands, let go and then after their white parachutes opened up both men landed seconds later on a small patch of green under the Burj.
They said the jump was the result of “years of training, competing and friendship that made the dream come true”.
Skydive Dubai also broke a similar world record earlier this year when Ernesto Gainza, from Venezuela, made a jump of 14,000 feet with the smallest parachute at just 35 square feet.
To view video, go to http://bit.ly/1fpg7wE
UAE is world’s charity capital with $5 billion aid
Culture of giving deeply rooted in Emirates’ society and nurtured by leaders, says Mohammed
The UAE increased its aid rate to 1.5 per cent of GDP, the highest in the 34-member Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The Emirates’ contributions rose more than threefold as it offered financial support to Egypt’s army-backed government during political unrest.
His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, posted his response to it on social networking websites. He tweeted: “According to the OECD, the UAE’s aids exceeded $5bn in 2013, making it the number one humanitarian capital worldwide.”
He added: “The culture of giving is deeply rooted in our society, and it has been always nurtured by UAE leaders since the inception of the UAE. We are humbled and pleased that the UAE came in the first place worldwide in terms of the value of its official aids as a percent of gross national income.”
Development aid from rich countries to some of the world’s poorest rose to a record high last year, data showed on Tuesday, but contributions from mainland Europe lagged as the region clawed its way out of recession. The OECD, a policy forum for 34 advanced democracies, said 17 member countries had increased their aid levels.
After two years of cuts to foreign aid budgets, it was 6 per cent more than in 2012 and the highest ever level, an outcome the OECD described as “heartening”.
Britain increased aid by nearly a third, and the UAE’s contributions rose more than threefold as it offered financial support to Egypt’s army-backed government during political unrest. Aid given by rich countries to poor nations rose last year to a record $134.8 billion despite budget constraints.
“Development aid rose by 6.1 per cent in real terms in 2013 to reach the highest level ever recorded, despite continued pressure on budgets in OECD countries since the global economic crisis,” an OECD statement said.
This figure came after two years of falling volumes.
“It is heartening to see governments increasing their development aid budgets again, despite the financial constraints they are currently facing,” said OECD Secretary-General Angel Gurria. “However, assistance to some of the neediest countries continues to fall, which is a serious concern.”
One such region was sub-Saharan Africa. Of the 28 members on the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee, 17 increased their overseas aid last year while 11 cut it back.
(With inputs from agencies)
Skydiving into the record books
Ernesto Gainza’s leaps from a small-more
propeller plane straight into the record books after gliding down to Earth on the world’s smallest parachute.
At 6.15pm in Dubai on Saturday, history began rewriting itself as daredevil skydiver Ernesto Gainza leapt from a small propeller plane straight into the record books after gliding down to Earth on the world’s smallest parachute — and not even Mother Nature could stop him.
Gainza’s name will now adorn the pages of the Guinness World Records book, despite fierce winds throughout the day jeopardising his attempt. Speaking to Khaleej Times just moments after landing, an adrenalin-pumped Gainza recalled the moments when the plane began its ascent into the wind-swept Dubai skies.
“To be honest I did not think at 3pm today I would be celebrating this. I did not think it would happen at all. I even told the team, guys I will try, but it probably won’t happen.”
And asked if there were any hairy moments up in the air, he admitted it wasn’t the smoothest jump. “I have to say this hasn’t been one of my best jumps. I was super nervous because of the crowd, the wind conditions weren’t ideal, but I am super happy right now. When I pulled my parachute and it opened correctly, I just said thank God!”
The jump itself was delayed by more than an hour due to high winds. Tension was rife among the Skydive Dubai crowds as many thought the jump would be postponed with winds reaching more than 20 knots — nearly 15 knots higher than what would be deemed good for a normal jump — according to XCF project manager Marius Melusel.
However, after more than a year of planning the risky jump, Gainza was not deterred by the winds, and was adamant to fulfil the moment he had been dreaming up for years.
Breaking his 1.5 second freefall using a parachute barely big enough to cover a single bed, Venuzuela-born Gainza glided down to the Skydive Dubai dropzone at higher than normal speed, but as his feet safely touched the grass beneath him, the cheers echoed out from the crowd and he punched the air in celebration. “The feeling was incredible, I am just so happy it’s done. Next time I might try something else, maybe a smaller canopy,” he said.
David Ludvik and Wuzi Wagner were tasked with the job of assisting Gainza on the jump, and despite doubts on ground, Ludvik said as the plane climbed to its 13,000-foot platform, all on board were confident it would be a success, albeit a slightly nervous atmosphere.
With Ludvik and Wagner’s canopies dwarfing Gainza’s 35sqft parachute at 66sqft and 69sqft, the duo said despite a few twists and spirals immediately after his exit from the plane, all went okay.
Smashing the current world record set by Luigi Cani in 2008 with a 37sqft canopy, Gainza downsized by 2sqft to 35sqft. In order to make the jump safe, he himself downsized to a mere 53kg. So what’s first on the agenda now the jump has proved successful?
“Chocolate, where’s my chocolate?” Gainza asked.
DUBAI // Breaking the world record for the largest fireworks display will showcase the emirate as a destination and help to attract tourists, experts say.
The extravaganza marked “the end of a momentous year for Dubai in which the undeniable highlight was the UAE’s winning bid to host World Expo 2020”, said Dr Ahmad Belhoul, chief executive of Strategy and Tourism Sector Development at Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
He said there was no doubt about the benefits the New Year’s Eve shows would bring.
“The pyrotechnic displays at Palm Jumeirah, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and at Dubai Festival City all have a part to play in ensuring that Dubai is established in the minds of residents and visitors as one of the most exciting and entertaining destinations in the world in which to see in the new year,” Dr Belhoul said.
With the record-breaking display being televised around the world, he said the celebrations would “not only attract thousands of visitors to Dubai and make a significant contribution to our travel and hospitality sectors, but will also … help to attract new travellers to our city for generations to come”.
Stephan Schupbach, general manager of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel on the Palm, said the fireworks display was “fantastic” for the man-made island and the emirate. The hotel had 1,200 guests and 2,000 visitors at its various outlets to see in the new year.
“Dubai is an expensive destination but as long as we can continue to offer these kinds of events, it all helps,” Mr Schupbach said.
One family had travelled from San Francisco for just three days for the spectacular, he said.
More than 78,000 fireworks had to successfully explode to beat the record set by Kuwait last year. The crescent of the Palm alone had more than 100,000 fireworks set up, plus 300,000 spread across the island and the World Islands for the six-minute show.
Though Guinness World Record officials confirmed it was indeed the largest fireworks display in the world, its team was inspecting the sites on Wednesday to do a final count of how many fireworks exploded.
But not everyone was able to enjoy the show. Elizabeth McAllister, a resident of the Palm, encountered chaos. She bought a ticket to Sandance at Atlantis before the record attempt had been announced and in hindsight she wishes she had not.
“I drove off the Palm to go to the American University of Dubai to get the shuttle bus. I boarded the bus at 8 and by 11, was still sitting on the bus and hadn’t even passed my own house,” she said. “We’d driven 5 kilometres. We knew we weren’t even going to make it in time for the fireworks so we just got off the bus and walked to my house, but the fireworks were half an hour late so everyone had already done with celebrating by the time they went off.
“If I’d realised this was going to be happening the same night as Sandance I’d never have bought a ticket.”
The event’s choreographer, Phil Grucci, said safety was of paramount concern, which led to the show being delayed.
“There were a few traffic snags on the Palm so we erred on the side of safety and there were other shows going on at the time anyway, so we decided if we couldn’t do it at midnight we’d do it at the next available slot, 12.30, to allow for the complications to clear out.
“The first objective was that not only was it entertainment but it was safe for the people of Dubai.”
Though it took 10 months of planning, it will take only 11 days for 200 pyrotechnicians to dismantle the display.
“It was a great honour to produce what we produced last night and it’s well deserved for the people of Dubai,” Mr Grucci said.
Fireworks were also a highlight of the celebrations in Sharjah. At Al Majaz Waterfront, a laser clock counted down to midnight, with a huge display highlighting the evening for tourists and residents.
The Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi unveils 170m-long statistical map for National Day
ABU DHABI // The Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi has documented the astounding growth of the city over the decades with what it says is the world’s largest statistical map.
Called Abu Dhabi Over Half a Century, the 170m-long display, located close to Marina Mall, details the significant developments in the capital’s history.
Statisticians spent two years collecting data documenting the socioeconomic rise of Abu Dhabi between the 1960s and 2012 for the project, which is open to the public until December 7, with free admission.
“It captures all the major turning points from all the decades,” said Sameth Raafat, a statistician with the centre. “It highlights how we’ve grown in the last 50 years.”
Visitors to the outdoor exhibit were presented with a beautifully packaged collection of books – one for each decade – chronicling the city’s rise to power.
The first book opens with a quote from Sheikh Zayed: “History is a continuum of events, the present only an extension of the past. So he who does not know his past cannot make the best of his present or future, for it is from the past that we learn.”
Kashif Hussain, a 27-year-old Pakistani who has lived in Abu Dhabi for nearly two years, said the exhibit was a good addition to the National Day celebrations.
“It’s important so we know the history of UAE,” Kashif said.
Vasu Deevi, a 30-year-old Indian who was strolling along the timeline map with his wife, Sireesha, also praised the project.
“This is fantastic, you can see how they grew,” Vasu said. “Even the design, it’s very nice.”
The Abu Dhabi Over Half a Century books are also available online at scad.ae
Red Bull Flugtag returns with a splash in 2013. Fearless men and women around the world will be launching themselves off a series of terrifyingly high platforms in self-constructed flying machines that range from the sensible to the what-on-earth-were-you-thinking?
Dubai Mall’s 820-metre walkway is step in right direction for shoppers
DUBAI // An air-conditioned pavement in the sky measuring close to a kilometre in length has become the latest feature at Dubai Mall.
The glass-enclosed walkway, with its 10 airport-style travelators, runs from the second floor of the world’s biggest shopping mall to the Burj Khalifa Metro station. It takes 15 to 20 minutes to walk the length of it.
“At 820 metres, the Metro link is one of the longest of its kind,” said Ahmad Al Matrooshi, managing director of Emaar Properties.
“The direct connection with the Dubai Metro … will help in reducing traffic and enable visitors to simply walk across from the station to Dubai Mall.”
The walkway and its 70 to 120metre-long travelators can accommodate more than 13,500 pedestrians an hour. It also provides access to Souq Al Bahar, Emaar Square and Emaar Boulevard.
The designers say they were inspired by traditional Arabian latticing known as Mashrabiya, which can be seen in their use of projecting windows and stained glass panels.
Marina Salvaridi, a tourist from Russia, said the walkway was convenient for newcomers like herself who struggled to find their way around.
“This direct access from the station ensures I do not get lost,” she said. “It is also good because we are out of the heat.”
Lea Distrito, a shop attendant in Dubai Mall, said it was great to get a little exercise.
“Also, it’s nice to be able to see from the windows the other landmarks in the area as we head to the mall.”
For Smita Baser, the walk was too exhausting. The mother of two, who has lived in Dubai for 10 years, usually takes one of the feeder buses that operate between the station and the mall’s entrance.
“If I were alone, it would be fine. But it is a little tiring with two children in tow,” said Ms Baser.
“I thought I’d take this because they were promoting it at the information desk. I did not realise it would be such a long walk.”
UAE’s first satellite atlas launched: http://bit.ly/Vxcdep
By Shafaat Shahbandari, Staff Reporter
Published: Jan 13, 2013 8:11 PM
Dubai: The UAE’s first atlas based on satellite images from DubaiSat 1 has been launched by Emirates Institute for Advanced Science and Technology (EIAST).
The atlas, built entirely by a team of Emirati cartographers, engineers and researchers, is the first of its kind in the UAE and uses most updated live images.
From the skyscrapers of Dubai to the emptiest expanse of Rub Al Khali, the atlas covers the entire country and gives a bird’s eye view of every corner of the UAE.
“Our idea is to let people see the recourses we have and to give them a different view about the UAE and in the long run we feel this atlas could be used in schools and universities,” said Khalid Al Suwaidi, assistant researcher at EIAST and a member of the team that compiled the atlas.
The 127 page compilation includes 70 high quality images of 2.5m resolution each, showing various areas of the country in great detail, while a graphic road map compares each image, giving additional information.
“We have chosen the best and most recent pictures out of the archive of 9,000 images that we have, so that people can see the recent developments of the country,” said Ammar Al Muhair, who is the leader of the that worked on the project.
According to EIAST, the images in the atlas are more recent than those found on Google Earth and other websites.
Some of the most striking images in the atlas are of the Ferrari World, Saadiyat Island, Palm Islands and Al Maktoum International Airport.
The task, which took eight months to complete, beginning from April 2012, wasn’t as easy as selecting pictures and printing them.
“We had people from different departments working together. First of all we had to look for images that didn’t have any errors or clouds in them, then we needed to make sure the image is recent and then we processed it. We did this for all 70 pictures one by one and the task wasn’t as easy as it sounds,” said Obaid Al Shehi, another assistant researcher and member of the team.
On a number of occasions more than one image had to be merged together to get the best product out, each covering a distance of 20 square kilometres.
The atlas, which is in Arabic, covers 83,600 square kilometres, and will be out in the market next month.
Jawahir Jassim Al Mansoori, a graphic designer who worked on the atlas page by page since the beginning said: “It was a very hard beginning, especially that I was working alone on such a huge project. But I accepted this as a challenge and I received great support from my colleagues. Since I was the graphic designer, I had put different ideas of how the atlas was going to look like before putting all my ideas in order and started designing the cover which symbolises DubaiSat-1’s position up in space providing the country with all these satellite images. I feel extremely proud of this project which I dedicate entirely to our UAE leadership.”
An English version of the atlas is also in the pipeline, which will be complete with updated images and additional details.