“On-track” to host Expo 2020 Dubai in Oct 2021: Ahmed Al Khatib

Expo 2020 Dubai‘s chief development and delivery officer, Ahmed Al Khatib has confirmed that it is “on-track” to host the World Expo on 1 October 2021.

Speaking at The Big 5 Digital Festival, Al Khatib revealed more details about the postponement of the global event due to COVID-19, current construction activities, and engineering challenges.

He said: “All permanent Expo constructions were completed at the end of 2019. And since then, we have been working on fine tuning and closing the main buildings and the main structures, the internal fit-out, and exhibitions of the building.

He added: “The three thematic districts were completed by June 2019. The heart of the Expo, the iconic centrepiece of the expo site, Al Wasl Plaza was crowned in September 2019, and the grand opening of Al Wasl Plaza was done by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in January 2020.”

Earlier this year the carbon-fibre entry portals, designed by Asif Khan, were also installed at the Expo site.

Al Khatib noted that to-date, the team at Expo 2020 Dubai has recorded 210 million work-hours.

“We continue to work closely with the participants, as many of their pavilions have marked completion. These include Egypt, the US, Norway, Austria, Finland, and they are working now on the internal exhibitions and the fit-out,” said Al Khatib.

He added that teams are now engaged with the installation of the signages, way findings, the road marking. “We also continue plantation on our site, where we bring thousands of plants from all over the UAE that will showcase our local environment to the visitors.”

“We are delaying the part of the final touches, which will be carried out closer to the event so that it stays clean and fresh.”

Earlier this year, the General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) formally approved the year-long postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai, after the World Expo’s Steering Committee agreed to explore with the BIE the possibility of a one-year delay due to the COVID-19 outbreak and its impact on global public, social, and economic health.

Unique engineering challenges

While the Expo features a plethora of complex and innovative designs, there are several engineering challenges that the teams overcame. Talking about such challenges, Al Khatib, said that despite him being a civil engineer with a background in structural engineering, he found the experience to be a “totally new school”.

“The amount of engineering and challenges, architectural works, clients requirements, changes, the stress of time and completion, and most importantly the cost control were all taken into consideration,” he explained.

Al Khatib stressed that the Expo is home to several “iconic structures” and each structure comes with its own set of engineering challenges. “Between schedule control, cost control, and meeting expectations, while the expectations kept rising daily, all these collectively make this site and the project very unique.”

Human focus

Al Khatib has been associated with Expo 2020 Dubai since the bidding stage in 2011.

“After winning the bid to host the Expo in 2013, we were ready to start. Later, towards 2015 we encountered new surprises through the process. The airport [Al Maktoum International Airport] had moved the runways, which impacted the entire masterplan, because of the flight path, the building heights, as well as the safety zones.

“We rotated the entire masterplan by about 90 degrees. The location of the metro station was moved. Everything that was in progress, we had to restart it, while working on the design of the buildings. We worked at full speed to cope with these challenges.”

The Expo 2020 Dubai site, according to Al Khatib, has kept the human-focus at its centre.

“We have developed the site like a city. The full size of the Expo is 4.38km2, but the actual event size is about 2.5km2, which focuses on human comfort and well-being.”

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