Skeletal steel structures of Expo 2020 pavilions, iconic theme districts and concrete columns for a metro extension have begun to emerge from ground level in Dubai South.
More than 8,000 pairs of hands are on deck, working round-the-clock operating cranes, driving earth moving equipment and cement mixer trucks inside the sprawling 4.3 square kilometre area to ensure the site is ready to welcome the world in three years.
Six months ago the ground was levelled before storm water drains and an extensive sewerage network was laid out. Workers in hard hats now drive around mounds of sand and blue signboards mark out areas such as Al Wasl Plaza and Opportunity Thematic District.
“The districts have already started to rise above ground and preparation for the metro link into the site has commenced,” said Manal Al Bayat, senior vice president of business development and integration at Expo 2020.
The theme zones of mobility, opportunity and sustainability will be linked by the central hub, Al Wasl Plaza — meaning ‘connection’ in Arabic.
Once completed, the massive trellis dome structure of the plaza will be used to project images to visitors on a 360-degree screen.
“In terms of the project we are on track and we hope to be ready with the site tested operationally way before the doors and gates open for visitors in 2020,” said Ms Al Bayat.
“In terms of construction progress, the site has been levelled, the basement levels have been dug out and infrastructure works are on for the Expo Village which will house some of the participants during the six-month period as well as before and after the expo.”
Countries are expected to begin building their own pavilions on the site by next year, she said.
Every week some 6,100 cubic metres of concrete is being poured into the construction with 500 tonnes of steel transported as the structures begin to take shape.
The makeshift site office on Sunday was the location for an announcement that Nissan will provide almost 1,000 vehicles, of which a substantial number will be electric cars, to transport visitors to and around the location.
The partnership between Nissan and the Expo aims to find green solutions to moving people and goods.
Some 180 nations will participate in the expo with 25 million visitors expected from October 2020.
“We are hoping to shape the future of intelligent mobility by providing access to technology, knowledge and innovation. It will change the way that cars are driven, the way they are powered and integrated into society,” said Ms Al Bayat.
“World Expos are a celebration where people learn create, innovate and work together by sharing ideas. We hope the expo will be a catalyst for creating a lasting impact and also provide a platform to showcase cutting innovation.”
Kalyana Sivagnanam, president of Nissan Middle East and regional vice president for Africa, Middle East and India, said the car maker would roll out its intelligent systems at the world fair.
“This will showcase Nissan’s look into the future with sustainable, safer and connected vehicles,” he said.
“The electric vehicles that are part of the intelligent mobility range will have technology to help the cars navigate safely.”
On the grounds off the Jebel Ali — Lehbab road, the UAE national flag is raised on sections where the country’s distinctive pavilion will be constructed.
Excavation work has also begun on a subway tunnel and underground rail that is a key to connecting the site with residential communities and the existing Dubai Metro link.
There are plans for solar panel canopies, some of which will be retractable, to shade walkways and pavilions with aims to generate at least half of the energy requirements from renewable sources to be built into surrounding infrastructure.
The main gated Expo 2020 area will cover 2 square km with the remaining 2.4 sq km comprising of the Expo 2020 village for staff, participants, logistic support, hotels and a public park.
Museums, exhibition centres, retail and commercial offerings are part of the legacy and long-term use of the area.
“The site will have a longer life, way beyond the six-month event,” Ms Al Bayat said.
“The expo legacy will be District 2020 that will host several different industries with plans to target sectors like logistics, education, travel, transport, tourism. The World Expo is natural part of the evolution of Dubai."