Who's behind Dubai's Expo 2020 bid?

Arabian Business profiles the leadership behind the bid to host prestigious global event
By Beatrice Thomas
Fri 27 Sep 2013 11:15 AM

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum

His highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is Prime Minister and Vice President of the UAE and constitutional monarch of Dubai. In his time as ruler — he officially ascended to the position in 2006 after the death of his brother Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum — and before in his position as Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohammed has been credited with shaping Dubai into the modern, global city of today. Projects such as the creation of The Palm Island, the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel and the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, all happened on his watch. Sheikh Mohammed founded Emirates Airline, now one of the biggest in the world, and has also spearheaded the development of Dubai’s sector-based hubs, including Internet City, Media City, Knowledge Village and, soon, the Dubai Design District. Mohammed Bin Rashid City, which was announced last year, is an estimated $100bn project that encompasses 4 million sq m for the first phase alone. In June, Sheikh Mohammed ordered the creation of a Dubai Strategic Plan 2020, which will be an update of the Dubai Plan 2015. The city’s tourism strategy envisages 20 million tourists by 2020. In a powerful speech in June Sheikh Mohammed said on hosting the Expo 2020 that the UAE has promised to “astonish the world”, evoking the golden age of the Middle East where innovative minds are welcomed and given the freedom to create. Sheikh Mohammed is responsible for launching Dubai’s bid and the committee reports directly to him.

Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum

Chairman

As chairman of the Department of Civil Aviation, CEO of The Emirates Group and chairman of Dubai World, as well as heading up Emirates NBD, Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum is a powerhouse of the aviation world. Since becoming DCA chairman in 1985, the same year national carrier Emirates was formed, Sheikh Ahmed has seen the development of Dubai International Airport into the world’s third-busiest for international passenger numbers and tenth-busiest for overall passenger traffic, with 57.7 million passenger movements in 2012. Overseeing the construction of Terminal 3 — the largest in the world — and, more recently, Concourse A at Terminal 3, Sheikh Ahmed has also led the Al Maktoum International Airport project at Dubai World Central, which will open in October and is next to the planned Expo site.

As chairman of the Higher Committee for Hosting World Expo 2020, Sheikh Ahmed has run the committee’s high-level meetings, ensuring the every aspect of the bid progresses smoothly. However, with 25 million visitors expected to the Expo, should Dubai win it, and 70 percent to come from elsewhere, his input into the logistics of moving the tourists will be crucial.

Mohammed Ibrahim Al Shaibani

Deputy chairman

One of Sheikh Mohammed’s key lieutenants, Mohammed Al Shaibani is the director-general of The Ruler’s Court, the prime government body of Dubai under which other arms of government, including the Department of Finance, Dubai Courts and the Executive Council fall. In addition, Al Shaibani is the CEO and executive director of the peak government investment body, the Investment Corporation of Dubai, which oversees the government’s commercial and business assets in areas such as real estate, leisure, utilities, financial services and transport. Among his many and varied roles, Al Shaibani, a computer science graduate, is also on the board of directors of Dubai World, chairman of Dubai Islamic Bank and vice chairman of the Supreme Fiscal Committee of Dubai — which will have done the number-crunching for Dubai’s reportedly well-resourced Expo 2020 bid. Underscoring the confidence placed in him by Sheikh Mohammed, Al Shaibani, who is deputy chairman of the bid committee, is also 15-year president of the royal family’s private management office. In his profile on the Dubai World website, Al Shaibani is described as having “extensive experience as an administrator and corporate leader”.

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Reem Al Hashimy

Committee managing director

Minister of State since 2008, Reem Al Hashimy also manages the International Affairs Unit of Sheikh Mohammed’s Executive Office, where she previously ran economic and social programmes. Al Hashimy, who has a degree in international relations and French, has extensive international experience, beginning her career as commercial attaché and, subsequently, deputy chief of mission at the UAE Embassy in Washington where she had a key role in the bilateral relationship on issues such as security, trade and economic and social affairs. In addition, she is chairman of children’s charity organisation, Dubai Cares and is well-placed to steer the bid’s mandatory international aid component. Addressing the 166-member nation General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris in June, Al Hashimy spoke of Dubai’s state-of-the-art infrastructure, its unique economic environment and transparent regulatory frameworks in addition to “a broad network of friendships and strong ties with the world”.

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer

Chairman and executive director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA)

Mattar Mohammed Al Tayer has responsibility for Dubai’s key public transport infrastructure as well as its taxi service. Known as the man who built the Dubai Metro, Al Tayer is tasked with ensuring another key piece of transport infrastructure, the multi-billion-dollar, 14km Dubai Tram network, is finished on time and on budget. With the first trams to arrive in December for initial testing, the AED4bn first phase comprising 11 out of the total 17 stations is slated to open in November 2014. On completion, the tram will link with the Dubai Metro at three stations along Sheikh Zayed Road and will also tie up with the monorail on The Palm Jumeirah. In June Al Tayer said a AED5bn planned extension of Dubai’s Metro Red Line, to run from Jebel Ali to Al Maktoum International, would be sped up if Dubai won Expo 2020. “As soon as the bid results are out and if we win, which we will inshallah, we start the planning and development of the project,” Al Tayer told reporters in Paris in June. As well the metro extension, the next stage of the UAE’s planned Etihad Railway project, which will also pass through Jebel Ali — and the expo site — is set to be finished by 2017, well ahead of the pegged Expo date.

Hussain Nasser Lootah

Director general, Dubai Municipality

As director general of the Dubai Municipality, Hussain Nasser Lootah oversees some 12,000 staff working across the 34-department civic body. One of the biggest employers in the Gulf, it has jurisdiction over city services and the upkeep of facilities in Dubai. Lootah, who graduated in civil engineering in the US, started his career in the Federal Ministry for Electricity and Water before moving to the municipality in 1985. After stints as acting director and deputy director, he assumed his current role in 2009. As part of his work on the Expo committee, in June he led a delegation in Paris which looked at some of the new projects implemented by the city of Paris, including the Futuroscope Theme Park and Science Museum. Strengthening its ties with France, where the BIE is based, the Dubai Municipality has a friendship agreement with the southern city of Lyon covering the exchange of information in areas such as economic and cultural issues, construction and infrastructure.

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Helal Saeed Al Marri

Director general, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing

Helal Saeed Al Marri is the key to Dubai’s future success as a tourist haven. Director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre since January, he holds responsibility for leading the planning, supervision and development of sustainable tourism as an economic enabler for Dubai, including the launch and rollout of the Dubai Tourism Vision for 2020, which seeks to attract 20 million visitors to Dubai by 2020.

Asked about his views on the Expo2020 bid, Al Marri told the audience at the Hotelier Middle East Great GM Debate 2013: “The Expo has probably been my day job for the last year. Dubai by far clearly has the strongest bid put forward as a city. Even when the evaluation committee visited Dubai and the various establishments, including the hotels, they were quite surprised and commented that they hadn’t seen, even in past bids, a city so aligned with a common vision.”

He added: “It has been a great experience to work on the bid and it has been a very vigorous process. In terms of the vote itself we are in a very, very strong position.”

Major General Khamis Mattar Al Muzainah

Dubai Police

The deputy commander of Dubai Police is one of the most highly respected officials at the law enforcement agency. With some 25 million visitors tipped to come to Dubai between October 2020 and April 2021, according to its Expo bid, and most from outside of the emirate, ensuring the Expo runs without issue would be a key part of its success.

At Al Muzainah’s disposal would be a 15,000-strong police force run out of ten police stations across the city. As with other major purpose-built venues, such as Olympic Games, Dubai police is also likely to have an outpost at the Expo site.

Major General Al Muzainah, along with the other committee members, has accompanied Sheikh Mohammed on all official delegations as part of Dubai’s exhaustive bid process.

Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein

Although not officially part of the Higher Committee, Princess Haya, wife of Sheikh Mohammed, has played a critical role as Dubai has gone about selling its bid to the world. In a speech to the 166-member nations of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in Paris, Princess Haya said the World Expo organisation was born from the desire for partnership and it is from this spirit of partnership that Expo draws its greatest strength.

She added: “The true legacy of an Expo is not in its physical buildings or monuments but in the connections it makes and the people it inspires and the future it builds. World Expos have a remarkable ability to bring people together to discuss, engage and innovate”.

She said: “The theme of Dubai Expo 2020, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, is just such a pledge of partnership. It draws on the UAE’s past, our heritage and our successes, it highlights the fact that we are all united in destiny and outcome”.

While in Paris, Princess Haya announced an initiative called Expo Live, aimed at solving major global problems, and a $133.3m (AED489.6m) Expo Partnership Fund to support innovation.

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