By Thomas Atkins
DUBAI, Jan 4 (Reuters) – Dubai opened the world’s tallest structure in a glitzy ceremony meant to put a brave face on crushing debt woes, leading some to wonder whether the tower is the emirate’s crowning glory or its last hurrah.
The $1.5-billion tower reaches up 828 metres (2,717 ft), 200 storeys into the sky. It surpasses the next highest inhabited building, Taiwan’s Taipei 101, by more than 300 metres (1,000 ft).
Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, renamed the tower Burj Khalifa in honour of Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, ruler of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, which has bailed Dubai out to the tune of $25 billion in the past year.
The bailout has fuelled expectations that Dubai will make concessions or cede some commercial power to its wealthier neighbour, whose ruler is also president of the United Arab Emirates.
Concerns about Dubai’s $100-billion debt pile, which has made Dubai’s stock exchange one of the world’s worst performing, overshadowed both the ceremony and boasts by the builder, Emaar Properties, that the Burj heralds a new dawn.