Leaving a legacy behind: Key takeaways from hosting iconic events

CEO of Qatar World Cup discusses ingredients that led to success

by

Lamya Tawfik

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Nasser Al-Khater, Chief Executive Officer, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and Najeeb AlAli, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Bureau, speak at the World Government Summit on Wednesday. -  Photo by Shihab
Nasser Al-Khater, Chief Executive Officer, FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, and Najeeb AlAli, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Bureau, speak at the World Government Summit on Wednesday. - Photo by Shihab

Published: Wed 15 Feb 2023, 5:13 PM

The team behind Expo 2020 were given clear directives to be exceptional, to be beneficial for the youth and to leave a legacy behind, a senior official said on Wednesday.

Najeeb Al-Ali, Executive Director, Expo 2020 Bureau was speaking about the directives given by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai on the onset of plans to host Expo 2020 in Dubai.


In a session titled ‘Hosting Major Events: An Arab Success Story’ Najeeb and Nasser Al Khater, the CEO of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 spoke at the World Government Summit about the different ingredients which led to the success of two massive global events.

“Indeed, it was exceptional, there were nearly 24,100,000 visitors which may not be the largest number globally but where did they come from? That’s what makes us different. Nearly 30-40% of them were from outside the UAE. This is in fact the largest percentage of external visitors in any other expo,” he said adding that the normal standard was only 5 to 15% from outside the hosting country.


Expo 2020 also had the largest number of countries participating since its inception in London in 1951 with 192 countries,” according to Najeeb. He also said that nearly 1 million school students from inside and outside the UAE visited the expo and the volunteering program saw 30,000 volunteers from 135 countries – “it was a truly exceptional global volunteering program,” he added.

Speaking about the organization of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar Nasser said that many people were criticizing Qatar before the event but that this made every Arab feel that this is an Arab event which must succeed. “In fact, the success of both the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and Expo 2020 will make them both very difficult events to follow for anyone organizing them in the future,” he said.

He said that the volunteering program and community involvement made people feel that this tournament belongs to each and every one of them. “We were very clear that this world cup belongs to all Arabs. The vision which focused on the spectators’ experience, the ease of transportation, the events which took place during the World Cup all contributed to its success,” said Nasser.

A key factor in the success of Expo 2020 was flexibility according to Najeeb who said that it was a way of life for the team. “We had to deal with constant change especially in light of the pandemic. Imagine working with different challenges for each of the 192 countries from budget problems to transportation hurdles. There were even countries that were delayed when it came to building their respective pavilions. Our team needed to work with each country to work through the challenges,” he said.

The pandemic, which affected the sports industry was also a major challenge, said Nasser. “Many championships were put on hold and there was a fear of cancelling it. Qatar was the first country to bring back the audiences to stadiums and we did it successfully,” he said.


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