Building a dream

World Cup talk dominated Project Qatar's biggest event ever

Project Qatar 2011 was ten times the size of the original exhibition in 2004.
Project Qatar 2011 was ten times the size of the original exhibition in 2004.

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One of the greatest sporting stories is the unlikely victor that comes from nowhere and takes down the champion against all the odds.

On 2 December 2010, Qatar filled that role, with stunning result, against countries like the US, Japan and Australia to win the right to host the World Cup in 2022.

Six months later, exhibitors and visitors arrived at Project Qatar knowing that the real work is yet to begin. The event drew 40,000 people to the DIEC on the outskirts of Doha beside the dunes of Lusail, ten times the size of the annual show’s first turnout in 2004.

Mohamed Fahmy, partner and vice-president of EHAF, the Egyptian consultancy, commented that the show was now comparable in scale of equivalent shows in Germany and France.

Perhaps inevitably all the talk in the stands and aisles stacked with shots of stadia and football-oriented corporate gifts revolved around the construction timescale for the global tournament.

“We think that we will not see anything happen until the other side of Ramadan; 2012 will be the year it will begin,” said one exhibitor. “Definitely by 2014,” said another.

The bid success changed the way the country not only sees itself, but also its plans for expansion and growth. When the Qatar Vision 2030 was unveiled in 2008, essentially a multibillion dollar shopping list for urban, infrastructure, modernisation and socio-economic development, Project Qatar was still only half the size it was this year.

The sudden change of speed to design and build world-class infrastructure added to the sense of urgency among organiser and exhibitors at the start of the first day to get everything ready from the outside areas for the Heavy Max heavy machinery show, the conference main hall and the temporary tent erected to house 800 more exhibitors.

The new record attendance comprised a number of first-time exhibitors, even among local companies. Suresh S. Iyer, account manager at HBK Contracting Company, the Qatar company that is working on the first phase of Dohaland with Hyundai, added: “We simply made the decision to try something new, and it has been a good platform. There has been a very good response; we have seen a lot of suppliers from the global market.”

Paul Wallett, business manager at Tekla, BIM software provider, said the show had yielded “good traffic” and meetings with contractors, which was an important step to establishing take-up in what is a “new market for construction software.”

Qatar’s Minister of Municipality Affairs underlined to CW that the building in Qatar goes much further than the spending planned for 2022. The near-term project pipeline will remain intact.

“Everything is already going ahead as planned for the World Cup, but our plans go well beyond. This is what was started two years ago as to our plans for seven years; so five more to go. Everything is going forward as we want,” said Sheikh Abdurrahman bin Khalifa.

Competition is likely to intensify beyond anything Qatar has experienced. Charbel G. Maroun, head of commercial, contracts and the PMO departments at Tadmur Contracting, the number of contractors competing in the local market has soared in the last two years.

“We used to bid with eight to nine other contractors. Now it is 50 contractors, with 12 going through after prequalification.”

One of the most ambitious aspects to Qatar’s plans is the extensive railway network, which includes a Metro system, a light rail system in Lusail and freight services to and from Saudi Arabia, as well as eventual train links to Bahrain.

Boris van Thiel, MD of the Qatar Railway Development Company (QRDC), said Qatar’s new infrastructure must be interlinked in design and execution order to provide the most efficient base for living and transportation.

“At the moment there is the masterplan for the [overground] rail, but there needs to be a higher plan to incorporate the other parts,” he said.

“For example, the roads in Doha will be impacted by this, so it makes sense to combine these in one project. There needs to be an approach towards all the infrastructure projects in Qatar.”

The problem for most of the construction supply chain is second-guessing when and how the medium-term projects that are needed will be placed into the pipeline.

Nishad Azeem, CEO of Coastal Group, a Qatar-based company consisting of trading, fabrication and healthcare divisions, among others, explained that whatever plans were in place for 2030, they will now have to be heavily revised for 2022, with many tender schedules facing delays.

“Whatever you see over the next two years will just be for the 2030 plan,” he said. “The actual World Cup construction will be a minimum of three years. From the concept design to the actual construction can take years.”

But the tournament will reshape the building plans, with some projects being put on hold and ‘frozen’, and others being required, he added.

Azeem believes that, with technology constantly evolving, planners, consultants and architects would benefit from holding back on final plans for the World Cup in the short term.

“Look at the Aspire Stadium. When the track was built, it was at the cutting edge; now it is out of date. You cannot build a stadium now and expect it to be the best in the world in a decade’s time.”

Many of the exhibitors accepted a degree of speculation as to the World Cup schedule. Companies were prepared to say they could begin working on projects “right now, even if they are some years away”, according to Dubai-based HVAC company Leminar’s general manager Pramodh Idicheria.

Architectural Textile specialist Mehler Texnologies travelled from Germany hoping to pass on its football know-how to architects. The company designs and produces membranes for textile architecture used on buildings and structure roofing. Arguably its highest-profile project is the recently-completed Stadion Miejski stadium, one of the venues for next year’s Euro 2012 competition in Poland.

“This will be a huge event,” said project manager Paolo Giugliano. “The tournament will come quickly – we are here to transmit our knowledge of how to do it.”

With the country pledging to be ready a year ahead of the event, when it hosts the Confederations Cup in 2021, there is less than a decade to go.

The fast construction activity in Doha will be good news for companies like Framecad, the provider of custom-made factory units for the erection of steel structures.

Nader Elhajj, director of Middle East and Africa, said the New Zealand company had targeted Qatar, in particular, given the growing demand for high-volume buildings, such as labour camps, villas, commercial buildings and offices. It has been in the country four years, and seven years in the Gulf.

“The market has been tremendous, excellent for the firm,” he said of Qatar.

Fino International, the luxury fit-out company, is planning to double its workforce in Qatar by the end of the year.

“We have more than 150 installation people here in Qatar, and by the end of the year we hope to have 300,” said Talal Saeed. “The infrastructure here for working is as good as Dubai. The only obstacle has been obtaining visas for workers and some of the regulations.”

Rental companies in the utilities sector expect to be among the major beneficiaries of the event as their services will be vital for the building and running of the event.

Jeff Hollingsworth’s temporary power and cooling company Primepower secured several deals in the first few days, including a deal that will see its generators being used at the Doha Museum. He predicts that his business and Qatar will be transformed in the coming years.

“It is great for a business like mine, but I just think it is great for the country, too. I watched the announcement with my family, I was so pleased it took me three days to get over it.”

One of the concerns with the tournament will be running the event at the height of summer – a challenge Primepower needed to meet when tasked with cooling the 15,000m2 World Cup marquee filled with fans as the outside temperature topped 40°C.

UK-headquartered Nixon Hire moved to Doha last year after choosing Qatar over the UAE. MD Chris Nixon says that the successful bid to host the tournament has justified the company’s decision. Nixon Hire has grown by 10% on a monthly basis, and he explained that this has been matched by a 10% to 15% increase in customers.

“It has been absolutely the best thing,” he said. “In some ways, coming to Qatar was by chance, but we are delighted to be involved in the World Cup,” said Nixon.

Qatar’s World Cup bid was sold to organiser FIFA on the back of the country being able to produce a sustainable legacy. Many exhibitors pushed their green credentials in terms of carbon footprints and quality assurance.

However, UK company Terraplus highlighted that developers must consider the use of stadia beyond football matches. Terraplus has provided flooring at venues such as Wembley Stadium in the UK and Sports City in Dubai.

Company spokesman Robert Else explained that the two systems would make it easier to convert the stadia that are being built in Qatar into venues that could host events such as concerts and exhibitions.

“We are here because of the World Cup,” confirmed Else. “At Sports City we laid 14,000m2 of Terraturf. Obviously you do not need that much for a football pitch but the point is that this is a flexible system that does little harm to the ground below. It is so important to realise these stadia will be around longer for much longer than the main event.”

As the visitors left and the stands came down, it was clear this was a starting point for the World Cup in 2022 but not quite the point at which it really got started.

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