It is a dream straight out of the pages of the Arabian Nights. To build a city that will be the world's hub for sports - from housing international sports governing bodies like the ICC, to attracting world famous teams like Manchester United, and world-famous stars like Tiger Woods, Yao Ming and Sachin Tendulkar to showcase their talents in four purpose-built state-of-the-art stadia. This is the city of the future - Dubai's Sports City - a 50 million square feet, US$2 billion project arising like the legendary phoenix out of the desert sands in this most ambitious state in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. Dubai Sports City is the cornerstone project in Dubailand, a massive 2.5 billion square feet vision of Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, to re-draw the contours of his state in a futuristic and mind-blowing style. 'Normally you find cities built around movieland, like Hollywood, or silicon, like Bangalore and Silicon Valley. But the theme here is sports. It will be a city powered by sports,' says chief executive of Dubai Sports City, Umamaheswaran Balasubramaniam, or UB to those who get their tongues twisted. Ignited by their leader's vision, three leading UAE businessmen - Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, Abdul Rahman Falaknaz and Abdul Rahman Bukhatir (the man who brought cricket to the desert and owner of the Sharjah Cricket Stadium) - have invested their wealth and brought the land on which Dubai Sports City is being built on the outskirts of the city. When this fairytale is finished, DSC will not only be a glitzy collection of stadia, but also offer high-end residential facilities to people who won't mind living next door to an Ernie Els-designed golf course or a soccer academy run by Manchester United. 'We want to be the world's centre for high-profile sports like soccer, cricket, golf, tennis, rugby and hockey. But at the same time there will be residential tower blocks, luxury villas and commercial and entertainment facilities. It will be a purpose-built and fully-contained city with the underlying theme being sports,' UB explained. 'This project was started in March, 2003. Our aim is to finish it in eight years, and by that time, we hope to have 70,000 people living in this city. It will be a one-of-a-kind city in the world.' DSC scored a huge coup when they convinced the International Cricket Council to move out of Lords in England and set up headquarters within their boundaries. With a non-existent taxation system, coupled with Dubai blessed by being situated at the crossroads of the world, the ICC had no hesitation in moving their offices from Monaco and London. The groundbreaking ceremony for the ICC's new HQ and ICC Cricket Academy - both to be built by the ICC themselves - will be on Wednesday and the project is hoped to be completed by 2007. The ICC will lease premises and start functioning out of Dubai by August. 'Malaysia, Singapore and Switzerland approached the ICC to get them to set up base in their countries. But our offer was the best. Dubai had a number of pluses going for it, mainly its geography, being right in the centre of the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, its easy access by air, its infrastructure, the great weather, and of course its great lifestyle,' said UB. Apart from the ICC, there are ambitious plans to invite other top world governing bodies to set up shop in Dubai - among them Fifa (soccer) and the International Rugby Board. 'In our bid to be the world hub for sports, it is logical that we try and get as many governing bodies to be based in Dubai. We are looking at sports like soccer, rugby union, hockey, swimming and badminton to come and set up their offices here,' UB said. A huge attraction for sporting chiefs will be four futuristic stadiums built to accommodate their sports. Leading the way is a 25-30,000-seater cricket stadium which will host one-day internationals and possibly test matches. Neighbouring Sharjah, which once used to attract the Tendulkars and the Warnes, will be overshadowed by this new stadium. A multi-purpose outdoor stadium next to it with a seating capacity of 25,000, will cater for football, rugby, athletics. The Dubai Sevens, the opening leg of the International Rugby Board's Sevens series, will be played here once this stadium is finished in 2007. Glamour English football club Manchester United, who have signed an agreement to run the Football Academy as Manchester United Soccer Schools, will also have a base here. 'The Dubai Sevens is now played on temporary facilities. But once this stadium is finished it will have a permanent home. We will also be able to host other rugby internationals. We have similar ideas for soccer and track and field. The focus will be to become a venue for high-profile sporting events,' disclosed UB. A multi-purpose indoor stadium with a seating capacity of 10,000 is being built for basketball, indoor hockey, volleyball, handball, netball and other team sports. When Yao Ming and other NBA superstars are not gracing the stadium, the floor will be replaced by an ice-rink for skating and ice-hockey matches. This stadium will also double as a concert and entertainment venue. Stars from Bollywood to Western rock artists will perform here. In keeping with modern trends, the fourth and last stadium will cater for extreme and leisure sports. This will also have a seating capacity for 10,000 fans. All four stadia will be built according to specifications from the world governing bodies of the sport concerned and certified for staging international events for global television broadcast. 'Our idea is to build facilities which can be used all the time. You have seen examples of how some Olympic cities have built stadiums, and once the Games are over, have struggled to maintain them. We don't want a ghost town, but a vibrant and lively place where people can live and enjoy the surrounding facilities,' said UB. With former British pro David Lloyd running a tennis academy with nine outdoor and six indoor courts, a Butch Harmon school of golf, and an Ernie Els-designed 18-hole championship golf course, and a country club the project will cater for all tastes. The Florida-based Bradenton Academy School will offer International Baccalaureate curricula and sports education for children from kindergarten to school leaving. 'There won't be any need to travel to the US or the West for studies. People who want their children growing up with a sports background, or even otherwise, can live here,' said UB. To make it self-contained, residents living in the 150 towers (also including office towers) and 900 luxury town houses will be able to send their children to a British public school, or shop at a one million square feet shopping mall with a dedicated sports mall. Two hotels and multiplex cinemas are among the other attractions. Unlike the other six states that make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai does not have a huge reservoir of oil deposits. Historically a trading centre, the rulers are now trying to tap into the tourist trade. Last year around three million visitors came to shop. Now, the rulers here want to create an oasis that will quench the thirsts of the most jaded sports fan. The dream is being built. It took Scherhazade 1001 nights to enchant a former caliph of Arabia and save her from the executioner's sword. Soon, another fairytale will unfold which is also set to capture the imagination of the world.