Atlantis party is stuff of legend

Category: Misc./General Career News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: November 17, 2008 | Publication: The National | Author: Praveen Menon and Eugene Harnan
Publication/Article Link:The National

The star-studded celebration to mark the official opening of Atlantis, The Palm, will cost US$20 million (Dh73.5m) and is being billed as the biggest party in the world.

Frantic preparations were underway last night for Thursday’s event and security will be tight on the night.

An “exclusion zone” extending several kilometres out to sea will be enforced and Palm Jumeirah residents will require a special pass to get back to their homes.

The climax of the evening will be the “world’s largest” fireworks display. But organisers promise a few more surprises along the way.

Kylie Minogue, the Australian singer, will make her Middle Eastern debut performing at a private concert for guests.

Lindsay Lohan, the US actress, will be there with her friend, Sam Ronson, who is to act as DJ for the after-party.

Also confirmed as attending are the talk show host Oprah Winfrey, the Hollywood actors Denzel Washington, Robert De Niro and Gerard Butler, the model Petra Nemcova, the British singer Lily Allen, the Lebanese singer Nawal Zoghbi, the Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra, the American singer Janet Jackson and Michael Jordan, the basketball hero.

There have been press rumours that Tom Cruise and the Beckhams could also attend the black-tie event.

Celebrities responded to elaborately boxed invitations sent out by Sol Kerzner, chairman of Kerzner International, and Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, executive chairman of Nakheel, the developers and operators of the Atlantis.

The guest list of 2,000 people will also include chief executives, business leaders, politicians, actors and musicians and members of the Dubai Royal Family.

The fireworks display, designed and executed by Grucci, an American firm, will light up 43km of the palm-shaped shoreline. The Atlantis would not give details on the length or grandeur of the planned fireworks, but promised “the entire Palm will be illuminated”.

The resort has brought in about 20 staff members from its resort in the Bahamas to bolster the grand opening team. Gourmet food will be prepared by chefs including Santi Santamaria, Michel Rostang, Giorgio Locatelli and Nobu Matsuhisa.

The area surrounding the hotel will be heavily secured, however, with Nakheel distributing letters to residents saying that access to all of Palm Jumeirah would be closed from 4pm onwards. Residents are being given passes 48 hours before the party to allow them to get to their homes. The letter also warned residents they would not be allowed to use the beach or enter the water until Friday morning.

A Nakheel spokesman said: “No restriction has been placed on Palm Jumeirah residents entering and exiting the island who are carrying a valid pass.”

Preparations for the party had been going smoothly until an accident at the weekend. The Atlantis management confirmed yesterday that a contract worker, employed by Gulf Petroleum Services, was killed on Saturday when he was struck by a falling tree in a private car park.

A statement from the hotel said: “We are working with the police and his employer, doing all we can to assist.”

Three weeks before the hotel opened to guests on Sept 24, a fire in the lobby caused extensive damage, which required the lobby’s dome roof to be replaced. During its opening week, another mishap left the hotel without water for hours. Management has also faced a campaign from activists and the community to free the whale shark that is the main attraction at the hotel’s Lost Chambers aquarium.

Meanwhile, residents of the Palm Jumeirah fear the big party will disrupt a quiet evening. One disgruntled resident said he feared traffic and security issues would create problems.

Robert Mannion, who owns property in the vicinity, was more optimistic. “I am in one of the villas that is not in the exclusion zone but I think it should be all right,” he said. “But how can they shut down an entire residential area for an event?”

Boat owners who hope to catch a glimpse of the grand opening will have to do so from two nautical miles away. Atlantis said the size of the exclusion zone was dictated by the fireworks display. It came into effect last weekend when the lagoon outside the Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina was closed to pleasure craft by the coastguard, but several boat owners say they still plan to drop anchor outside the zone and enjoy the fireworks.

“It doesn’t really mean anything, said Keith Mutch, manager of the Dubai Offshore Sailing Club. “We were all going to go out and watch it and we will still, but a two-mile nautical limit is not too far.”