Najeeb Mohammed Al Ali (right), Executive Director, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, and Nasser Al Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 at the Summit on Wednesday Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai are major Arab success stories that will be difficult to replicate, delegates of the World Government Summit (WGS 2023) in Dubai heard on Wednesday.

Nasser Al Khater, CEO, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Najeeb Mohammed Al Ali, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau spoke at a session titled ‘Hosting Major Events: An Arab Success Story’.

Expo 2020 Dubai receiving over 24 million visits and fans applying for 18 million tickets for FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 were highlighted as the markers of the immense success achieved by the two global events hosted by the GCC countries.

“World Cup was a success of the Arab countries. Expo in Dubai and the World Cup in Qatar are events that will be difficult to replicate,” said Al Khater, who was responsible for leading the planning and delivery of the global sporting event in Qatar.

Meanwhile, about 30 to 40 per cent of the more than 24 million visits to Expo were by people from outside the UAE, which is an exceptional success, pointed out Al Ali, who was responsible for supervising the preparation and execution of Expo 2020 Dubai projects and coordinating with different government authorities to ensure its success.

“Another is important fact is participation. We had 192 participating countries... As many as 1 million students visited the Expo. We had 30,000 volunteers from 130 countries,” said Al Ali.

Clear direction

He added that the clear directives from His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, as well as the daily support from Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner-General of Expo 2020 Dubai, were the major driving forces behind the huge success of the World Exhibition.

“Sheikh Mohammed had a clear vision and he gave us clear directives. He said it should be exceptional in nature, youth and the coming generations should benefit out of it; it should have a lasting legacy; it should not be just for six months, there should be a post-Expo phase that will go on.”

His comment that Sheikh Nahyan spent every single day throughout the six-month event with the Expo team to ensure its success received a huge round of applause from the audience.

“He did not miss a single day. He was always there, communicating with guests and nationals and creating a warm ambience.”

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Speaking about the challenge of organising the event during the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced it to be postponed for a year, Al Ali said: “COVID regulations changed daily. Countries were facing several challenges. We told them to look at the changing situations and their budget and adjust. Logistically there were problems for countries building pavilions as shipments from China had stopped. Thank God, we remained with 192 countries and we were able to solve the problems.”

Talking about how the mega event embodied its sub theme of sustainability, Al Ali said more than 120 buildings across Expo 2020 Dubai had been certified by the US Green Building Council, he said. “We had platinum, gold or silver LEED certifications,” he said.

“In a few months we will host COP28 using the same infrastructure. This is a huge sustainability achievement for the UAE.”

Al Khater said the World Cup also moved in line with Qatar’s 2030 sustainable agenda.

Speaking about the challenges, he said: “We had a challenge with workers and we wanted to change the standards for them which became beneficial as productivity increased.”

Regarding how Qatar tackled the challenge of COVID-19 for the event, he said: “We were the first country to bring back the fans to the stadium. We had several guidelines which FIFA and other organisations used for some other events.”