Expo 2020 Dubai: How hundreds of cleaners, gardeners work overnight daily to put up 'world's greatest show'

As soon as night falls and visitors to the world fair start to leave, hundreds of employees begin their day's work


Nandini Sircar

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Published: Thu 10 Mar 2022, 5:31 PM

Last updated: Thu 10 Mar 2022, 6:31 PM

The site of Expo 2020 Dubai never sleeps.

As soon as night falls and visitors to the world fair leave, hundreds of cleaners and gardeners begin their day's work.

A team of 1,000 cleaners are deployed every day over a 24-hour period to keep the Expo site clean, while around 400 gardeners trim and groom the plants and hedges every night to maintain an enchanting landscape.

At night, the world fair transforms into "a dynamic space of deliveries and cleaning," said Tony Matthews, operations director of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Shedding light on behind-the-scenes activities and event-readiness, Matthews highlighted that his team delivers a seamless operational journey for all participants and visitors, ensuring smooth movement across multiple functional areas.

"We are very much an overnight operations team," he said, explaining how activities are planned, tested and implemented effectively across the mega fair, with a high-level overview of the site. "There is a very intense period of cleaning. We have many cleaners on-site, who start as the visitors leave, and our intention is to keep the site as clean as possible for when it starts again in the morning."

Half of that overnight operation is simply replenishment, he said. Deliveries come through the gates at night, which is when the logistics team replenishes all restaurants, vending machines and facilities.

Matthews added that a lot of focus goes into running the site smoothly since there are complicated operations and exhibitions.

"We have a big team of international experts who help keep the site technically alive as we move forward through the night into shifts," he said. "We can’t underestimate our landscaping. There are 800,000 plants, trees and bushes across the site that require nurturing."

Meanwhile, more than 80 trained, high-level cleaners work on roads to ensure everything looks pristine for the next day.

"There are very few gardeners during the day," Matthews said. "We do most of the work at night. We have around 700 to 1,000 technical staff."


Speaking about navigating the challenges posed by Covid-19, Matthews said: "We use over 1,000 litres of sanitisers and products every day. There was a lot of focus on identifying touch points and areas that need regular cleaning. Throughout the day we’ve got a rigid sanitising programme in the pavilion spaces, public grounds, the arrival plazas. It’s a very well-thought-out plan."

The operations team at Expo 2020 partnered with Dettol, who provided technical support and products.

"Our cleaners keep cleaning the key areas throughout the day that regularly need to be cleaned. At night, we have over 1,000 cleaners that approach the site in a very systematic manner. There is general cleaning and then there is sanitising and deep cleaning in intense areas," Matthews said.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Matthews said the team is committed to protecting the site's legacy even after the world fair concludes on March 31. That will mean recalibrating functions and adjusting operational requirements so that the same services can be offered at District 2020.

"From an operational point of view, our logistics, our maintenance and landscaping will continue," he said. "We will realign our operations as the city continues. So, we’ll carry on as we’ve been doing and adapt it to the use of the site."

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