By Saifur Rahman
Dubai Government has so far spent around Dh25 billion (US$6.81 billion) in developing the world’s first greenfield 5G-ready futuristic mini-city, Expo 2020 on a five square kilometre site, a top official said.
This is about Dh5.84 billion (US$1.59 billion) or 19 percent lower than the original budget of Dh30.84 billion (US$8.4 billion) estimated at the planning stage in 2013.
At the heart of the Expo 2020 site sits the Al Wasl Plaza – a centre-piece dome-shaped structure that will offer breath-taking shows and live contents for visitors when the pass by.
“The total investment in developing the Expo 2020 site, infrastructure, buildings and our own projects and pavilions would be around Dh25 billion, including Dh250 million spent on the Wasl,” Ahmed Al Khatib, Chief Development and Delivery Officer of Expo 2020 told The Arabian Post at the Arabian Travel Market.
“The cost also involved the extension of the Dubai Metro that crosses Expo 2020 site and associated infrastructure around the site. These costs, however, do not include the investment in developing various stand-alone national pavilions.”
Al Khatib said, the Expo 2020 site is the world’s first 5G-ready city and will also be the world’s first such Expo.
“It has been an exciting, a very complex and a very challenging project. It was planned as a futuristic project. It is going to be the first 5G-ready city of this kind in the world with internet connection will be provided through a dedicated line coming from Fujairah,” he said.
“Three of the 5-kilometre Expo 2020 site will be dedicated for events, making it the most vibrant exposition to have ever held.”
The dome’s huge steel crown was positioned at the top of the jewel of the site in an inspiring feat of precision engineering. Enclosing a space of 724,000 cubic metres and standing 67.5 metres tall – higher than the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the 130-metre-wide domed steel trellis encircles Al Wasl Plaza, a structure that will be the heart of the Expo 2020 site and set to become Dubai’s latest architectural landmark.
Weighing 550 tonnes of moulded steel, Al Wasl dome’s 22.5-metre crown had to be precisely positioned on top of the vertical trellis, with a margin of error of only three millimetres, he said. It was completed using a technique called strand-jacking. Including the structures and equipment required to lift the dome during this process, the total weight was 830 tonnes – equivalent to 600 saloon cars.
Fitted with state-of-the-art projectors, the dome will host performances from A-list global performers and other major celebrations, on key international occasions such as New Year’s Eve, Diwali and Chinese New Year as well as the national days of participating countries falling within its duration, starting October 1, 2021 till March 31, 2022.
Talking about the events calendar, Amna Abulhoul, Executive Creative Director at Expo 2020, said, “Al Wasl Plaza will be the heartbeat of the Expo 2020 experience and it is designed keeping the audience in mind.
“Al Wasl Plaza embodies the heart and soul of Dubai. We are deploying the latest technology to create visual contents that will be projected on the projection gallery fitted on the dome while live performance will continue throughout the day to create the right emotions.”
Developed within Dubai South, the 140-square kilometre new aviation city, Expo 2020 was initially been seen as a major boost for the emirate’s economy. It was initially projected to receive 25 million visitors during the six-month period.
“Expo 2020 Dubai’s long-term investment in the future of the country will boost its economy by Dh122.6 billion (US$33.4 billion) and support 905,200 job-years between 2013 and 2031,” Expo 2020 had said in a statement in 2019 citing an independent report published by global consultancy Ernst & Young.
“During the peak six-month period of the World Expo, the largest event to be held in the Arab World is predicted to add the equivalent of 1.5 per cent to UAE Gross Domestic Product.”
Crucially, small and medium enterprises, a core component of the UAE economy, will receive Dh4.7 billion in investment during the pre-Expo phase, supporting 12,600 job-years and in line with Expo 2020’s goal to foster innovation and support small businesses, it said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, things however, might be different. Despite the current challenging situation posed by the Coronavirus, Dubai has already developed the city’s infrastructure, attracted massive private investment in real estate, hotels, tourism and hospitality sector – that will serve the city for at least another 10-15 years without having to invest in infrastructure.
Dubai’s residential market stock increased to 607,000 units with the addition of 10,000 units over the first quarter of 2021. For the remainder of 2021, an additional 46,000 units are expected to be added, making the total deliveries crossing 56,000 units in a year. Most of these supplies have been planned in anticipation of the possible increase in demand, due to Expo 2020 effect.
“The infrastructure and development works run up to the Expo 2020 has made Dubai future-ready and will serve the city’s growth for at least two decades, if not more,” said an analyst, requesting anonymity. “Private business houses and foreign investors have ploughed billions of dollars in real estate hotels, tourism and hospitality sectors to meet the growing demand anticipated during the Expo – which will serve the emirate for a long time to come. These supplies will serve Dubai for many years to come.”