Sin City left reeling by murderous shootings as UFC and boxing worlds unite urging Las Vegas to ‘stay strong’ – Gareth A Davies in Las Vegas ….
What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. They say it for a reason. It is the world’s greatest entertainment centre. 24/7. Sports and entertainment events day after day, a Disneyland for adults. A place for fun and frolics. Not right now.
Las Vegas, the last city to be created in the western world, has been my home from home for almost twenty years covering the biggest boxing and Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) cage fighting contests. I adore the place. Even its gaudiness. Yet it has a special glitz and glamour, and very often, I’m there relating the narrative of two men – or two women – fighting over a pot of gold, gambling life and limb for their fistic and financial legacy.
With some of the biggest fights on the planet there in the last four months, I’ve spent the best part of the summer there. It’s hard not to feel haunted and horrified when you know the area intimately.
Living in Las Vegas, there is always the knowledge that guns proliferate. That this is the old Wild West. That taxi drivers, many of whom carry guns, have them on display on the passenger seat beside them. It is a police regulation. Vegas, when you know it, carries hidden dangers away from The Strip. But not like this, a horrific slaughter which leaves a bloody stain on the Mojave desert floor in an area where tourists and revellers ought to feel safe.
Where the horror happened has long been hallowed ground for the fight industry. Just a few weeks ago, on the very site of this atrocity, a giant canvas media tent housed 500 journalists, photographers and videographers from around the world as Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor took part in one of the richest fights of all time, grossing well over half a billion US dollars. The fight itself took place across the road from the Mandalay Bay at the T-Mobile Arena. That the media tent was in the same lot that the thousands of bullets rained down killing innocent revelers and music goers at the Harvest Festival chills the heart.
It might have been a fight crowd, a Rodeo crowd, or youngsters at one of the many music festivals there who became victims. That quad and the surrounding areas are the fight triangle. The Mandalay Bay, the T-Mobile Arena, and the MGM Grand Garden Arena are all housed at the very southern end of the 4.8 mile long Las Vegas Strip. It is so often a maelstrom of activities. Indeed, the city itself is arguably one of the global centers of sports entertainment.
A new NFL team and stadium is coming. And apart from being the Mecca of the fight world, there are global tournaments held there in poker, rugby sevens, rodeo, equestrian, pool, snooker, wrestling. The list is endless.
Watching those frightening videos recorded from this horror, it reminded me of a Sunday last year, when a group of journalists from the UK sat with Amir Khan, high up on the Mandalay Bay’s multiple-windowed suites looking out on that very area, hours after the British boxer was defeated by Saul Canelo Alvarez. Two months ago, I spent the best part of a week at the Mandalay Bay covering Andre Ward and Sergey Kovalev battling it out for light-heavyweight supremacy.
The Mandalay Bay’s Convention Center housed the UFC Fan Expo for several years, up to 40,000 avid aficionados spending their money in the dream of meeting their heroes. Any one of those events could have seen a different group of visitors to Vegas caught up in the violent mania of one individual.
When you have walked that very lot, walked those warm streets so many times, the unfathomable fear, chaos and slaughter which went on feels horrifically tangible. And it will never feel the same again.
It has been hard to watch the footage, and indeed, my phone on awaking here in the UK on Monday morning lit up from both family and colleagues asking if I was there. I was not. In a way I wish I had been. I have many friends and colleagues in Las Vegas and it was gratifying to continue to see them mark themselves as ‘safe’ on social media sites. But that is no consolation for the innocent fallen, and their families. I left the West Coast late last week, and will head to Las Vegas this weekend for the one of UFC’s biggest event of the year.
Dana White, the UFC president, pledged £750,000 for the victims, and McGregor said yesterday that he was “absolutely devastated” hearing the news. As he said, it is a city with “so much energy and life, a city of celebration and enjoyment”. It is. “I pray for all the victims, their families, and everyone affected by this senseless act of violence,” said McGregor. We join him in that. Indeed, a legion of fighters, and sportsmen and women have made memorable and moving statements over the atrocity of one very evil human being. Indeed, the people and citizens of Sin City have come together like never before.
The GoFundMe account created on Monday morning has had more than 40,000 pledges, raising the total to more than $3 million in the first 24 hours.
For once, POTUS Donald Trump made powerful statements, yet ignored what we all know needs to be said in the USA. That the proliferation of guns, and their acquisition in numbers by individuals, needs both close control and monitoring. I’ve been in Las Vegas so many times, I’ve even had security men who know me ask me if I have a gun. They ask because they think I live there.
Las Vegas is reeling at the moment. Understandably so. And our hearts go out to all those affected. But it is a place of rebirth and renewal, and although the tragedy will be never be forgotten, and it will take a long, long time for the dust to settle, the wheels of Sin City will keep turning.