Dubai: This Saturday marks the beginning of a two-year countdown to Expo 2020 Dubai, and the organiser of the much-anticipated event say they are making good progress.

Delivery of the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East and Africa is “well underway”, with the development continuing to advance in six key areas, namely international participation, commercial partnerships, site delivery, economic impact, social impact, and legacy.

“Construction is well advanced on the three thematic districts that form the core of the Expo site,” a statement from the organiser reads. Foundations and structural works are complete within these areas.

“All concrete works for the districts have now been completed, with about 243,000 cubic metres of concrete poured.”

To date, more than 44 million work hours have been done at the Expo 2020 site, and there are currently about 26,000 workers on it. At the peak of construction through the first six months of 2019, about 40,000 workers are expected, including employees of third-party stakeholders and participating countries.

All major design elements are complete — the last being the iconic Al Wasl Plaza, a 130-metre wide, 67.5-metre tall domed space. The development of Al Wasl Plaza is being managed by Meraas, with the steel works for the dome trellis provided by Cimolai Rimond M.E.

While the organiser is yet to release any kind of economic impact assessment, it says that more than 25,000 suppliers from 149 countries are registered to do business with Expo 2020. “This includes small and medium-sized businesses, which continue to be a priority in winning contracts,” it said. Currently, more than half of all Expo 2020 contracts have been awarded to SMEs.

Over 5,000 official products will be sold through retail outlets across the Expo 2020 Dubai site, as well as authorised outlets around the UAE, and Expo 2020’s official online store.

Post-event legacy

On the issue of legacy, one of the most pressing matters for Dubai, organisers say that at least 80 per cent of the Expo-built structures will be transformed into District 2020, a “new urban experience that will continue to foster collaboration, creation and innovation.”

“It will boast the latest trends in modern living, blending work and recreation, with 65,000 square metres of residential space and 135,000 square metres of commercial space.”

A handful of the event’s sponsors have committed to establishing a permanent presence in District 2020, while the Sustainability Pavilion will become a centre for children and science after the Expo.

So far, more than 170 countries have confirmed that they will take part in Expo 2020 Dubai, either publicly or privately, while the organisers have announced 16 sponsors, including Pepsi, Emirates airline, and MasterCard.