The Galwayman who bought Ireland is dead, England is deserted, while Australia and New Zealand have merged.
They were designed to make Dubai the envy of the world: a series of paradise islands inhabited by celebrities and the super-rich reclaimed from the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf and shaped like a map of the Earth. It was called The World.
As millions of tonnes of rock were dumped into the sea for the foundations, timely leaks suggested that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were to buy Ethiopia, Richard Branson was tipped to occupy England, while Rod Stewart would border him in Scotland.
Instead it has become the world’s most expensive shipping hazard, guarded by private security in fast boats and ringed by warning buoys to keep the curious away.
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A development that was meant to send Dubai’s star into the firmament of First World cities has been left to the mercy of the waves and the baking winds.
Mile after mile of breakwater built from boulders brought hundreds of miles by ship has been laid, but inside its man-made lagoon, work has completely stopped.
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The expected map of the world of 300 islands is instead a disjointed and desolate collection of sandy blots a monumental folly just out of sight of Dubai’s shore.
Those who bought into what was the world’s most ambitious building project were not celebrities.
Many were more ordinary investors who put down 70pc deposits, some of them Anglo-Indians.
Galway auctioneer turned developer, John O’Dolan (51) fronted a consortium under his O’Dolan International banner and bought Ireland for e28m in 2007 and last year snapped up England from under the noses of several UK interests for e23.5m.
But the property crash brought tragedy in its wake as the Galwayman committed suicide in February of this year.
As well as his foreign investments, the popular family man had extensive business interests in Ireland. He owned a bar and a hostel in Galway as well as other properties in Dublin and Limerick.
September 17, 2009