Lessons on how to lure visitors to the great cities of the world: build dry ski slopes in 40°C heat and tempt Sonia into a long-awaited comeback

News of The World

An entertaining “Movers and Shakers” breakfast networking event at London’s Four Seasons Hotel was enlivened by ex-Land Securities and Lend Lease director Peter Walichnowski. He had just returned from a spell working in Dubai and had set up his own development firm, Skylan. Walichnowski amused the early risers with his tales of the weird and wonderful Gulf city. He recounted bumping into a Kuwaiti gentleman at a conference for the backers of The World, the plan to create 250 islands in the shape of all the countries on the planet. “I bumped into this guy who’d bought Australia for $300m,” recalled Walichnowski. “I asked him what he was going to do with it, and he just said: ‘I don’t know’.” Which is pretty much what happened the first time …

Shopping is the new beach

Walichnowski also talked about the increasing number of holiday resorts springing up around shopping centres. Apparently, the locals like nothing better than a relaxing week of shopping, so developers are increasingly building big hotels around malls. One of the latest has a dry ski slope, protected from the 40°C heat by thick walls. I’ve forwarded both ideas to Bluewater.

Holyrood’s fine heritage

Noses are slightly out of joint up in Edinburgh after similarities were noted between the new Scottish parliament and a fruit and veg market in Spain. Designed in 1997, a year before the Holyrood building, the Santa Caterina market in the old quarter of Barcelona shares the familiar curved-roof outlines, ornate wooden window frames and elaborate entrance. Not particularly surprising, perhaps, because both were designed by Enric Miralles before his untimely death. Miralles' widow Benedetta Tagliabue admitted there were parallels. “I don’t see any direct similarities between the parliament and the Caterina Market in Barcelona,” she said, “but they do have in common the aim to break boundaries.” And the fact that the market was dogged by delays and wrangles, including work stopping for two years after the ruins of a Roman necropolis were found. Probably time to check the Holyrood foundations …

As if that weren’t enough

As you will know, these have been troubled days for Multiplex. It seems a toxic cocktail of hubris, bad luck and lack of fitness has brought this once-proud contractor to its knees before the might of energy company McDermott in Building’s rugby sevens (see page 40). I understand they’ve been having a spot of bother with some north-west London projects, too.

The phantom 500,000

Gordon Brown is a cheeky monkey. His pledge of “1 million helped into home ownership by 2010” is not, it transpires, a promise to do anything to help 1 million new homebuyers. Fair enough, half a million will be the beneficiaries of Homebuy, Social Homebuy, key workers schemes and the rest of it, but the remaining 500,000 are just punters who will be helped by “favourable macroeconomic conditions”.

Pop goes the Olympics

The London Olympic 2012 bid is in serious trouble. Rival bidder Madrid sends us news that it has secured the “unconditional support” of pop songstress Shakira for its bid. The city gushingly released a statement praising her for representing “the best of what we are and what we want to be”, which is presumably Colombian, given the yodelling diva’s nationality. Rumours that Seb Coe signing up 1980s Liverpudlian star Sonia have yet to be confirmed.

Hello! meets Property Ladder
Hello! meets Property Ladder
Back to Dubai. I hear the authorities were so excited about the England football squad’s visit in 2002 to train for the World Cup that they devised a graduated scale of gifts for the players. On hearing that David Beckham was the most marketable commodity, the Dubai powers-that-be offered him a free house in a choice location, reported to be Palm Jumeirah. They didn’t ignore the other players, however. They also got houses, but had to make a part-payment depending how well known they were in Dubai. Presumably Danny Mills had to talk to his bank, then.