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The Venetian Macao's 10th Anniversary: A Vision Realised
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The Venetian Macao's 10th Anniversary: A Vision Realised

Bowled over by the charms and romance of historical Venice, Sheldon G. Adelson dared to dream big

The Venetian Macao in 2007

It all started with one man’s dream. More than a decade ago, Sheldon G. Adelson, chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands, had a vision that would transform Macao into one of the world’s major business, leisure and family destinations with a diversity of attractions and facilities that draw tens of millions of visitors each year.

The Venetian Macao became the first proof that the vision could be realised. Situated on the Cotai Strip, The Venetian Macao is a modern marvel in a city dotted with centuries-old Chinese and Portuguese architecture and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Nothing like it had ever been seen in Asia. When The Venetian Macao opened on August 28, 2007, it was the third largest building in the world and the biggest single structure in Asia. Measuring 980,000 square metres, The Venetian Macao can hold the entire area of Bejing’s Forbidden City and still have room to spare.

Before Macao, Adelson had already had a long business career in the United States, beginning as a schoolboy entrepreneur with a newspaper vending business on the streets of his native Boston.

He founded Las Vegas Sands in 1988 to build and manage hotels, including The Venetian Las Vegas, complete with a convention and exhibition space in one of the glitziest cities on Earth.

The connection with Venice is a romantic one; Adelson had honeymooned in the Italian city with his wife, Dr Miriam Adelson. The ornate architecture, rich cultural heritage, exquisite cuisine, the picturesque bridges and piazzas, and the gondolas gliding serenely along the city’s ancient canals captivated the couple. Adelson believed that hundreds of millions of others would be similarly enchanted if only the charms and grandeur of Venice could be brought to them.

Not everyone shared this vision. Sceptics thought that Asian people would be unresponsive to the theme and that Macao would remain a sleepy backwater, forever overshadowed by its famous neighbour, Hong Kong. As if these challenges were not enough. When Adelson first visited the proposed site in 2002, it was still submerged under metres of water. It took years of digging and draining simply to create the landfill. This was before a single brick could be laid. The reclaimed land joined the islands of Coloane and Taipa, and became known as the Cotai Strip.

Defying conventional wisdom, Adelson embarked on a US$3 billion investment that resulted in a paradigm shift, creating the first truly integrated resort that Asia had ever known, combining accommodation, retail, dining, meeting and convention, and entertainment options on a previously unheard of scale.

The construction effort for this alone was herculean, involving more than 11,000 building workers at its height, with enough concrete poured to fill 318 Olympic-sized swimming pools. The next challenge was to capture the graceful elegance of Venice, and here, neither expense nor effort was spared. For example, the interior of The Venetian Macao features 3 million sheets of gold leaf and specially selected Italian marble used in washrooms and suites.

The building also had to pay homage to the artistic and architectural accomplishments of the Venetians of the Renaissance era – who, it was said, “left no canvas unpainted nor marble unchiselled”.

The Venetian Macao includes painstakingly detailed reproductions of many of the most remarkable landmarks of Venice itself – the Bridge of Sighs, the Campanile Tower, the Rialto Bridge, the Doge’s Palace, and many others, and sculptures and ceiling frescos that reflect the achievements of one of the great centres of human creativity.

Aside from the lavish décor, The Venetian Macao blazed a trail in setting new standards of luxury accommodation, with a 39-storey, 3,000 all-suite property, something previously unknown in Asia.

The Venetian Macao is also the venue of choice for many VIP charity galas and international film and TV awards ceremonies. It is regularly used as a location for movie blockbusters and television series. This has brought a constellation of screen stars from across the globe, ranging from Chinese heroes, such as Chow Yun-fat, Aaron Kwok, Fan Bing-bing and Zhang Ziyi, to the screen greats of Hollywood and Bollywood – Kevin Spacey, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Nicole Kidman, Shah Rukh Khan and Priyanka Chopra have all walked the red carpet here.

Macao’s reputation as a gourmet paradise is further enhanced by the 60 restaurants within The Venetian Macao catering in all kinds of regional Chinese, Asian and international cuisines. These restaurants include the much acclaimed Michelin-starred Indian restaurant The Golden Peacock.

What was once little more than a swamp is now one of the most vibrant destinations in the world – the Cotai Strip has changed Macao beyond all recognition. Today The Venetian Macao’s parent company Sands China operates the largest collection of integrated resorts in Macao, with almost 13,000 hotel rooms and suites, 140 restaurants, 1.9 million sq ft of retail space comprising more than 850 shops, 1.7 million sq ft of meeting space, Cotai Arena and three permanent theatres. Last year alone, almost 74 million people visited Sands China properties.

Remember how it all started with one man’s dream? That dream has come true.