Since early 2020, the global fire safety sector began to confront the drastic effects of the Covid-19 lockdown and its consequential international disruption and postponement to exhibitions and conferences around the world, including the annual Intersec Dubai Expo.
As the Covid virus rapidly spread, I optimistically wrote in the April 2020 edition of Gulf Fire:
The world is fast coming to terms with the growing impact that this virus is having across the entire spectrum of civilisation. The World Health Organization has recently labelled the outbreak of the disease a pandemic.
As Gulf Fire goes to press, international travel is now seriously affected, and schools, colleges, public events and gatherings are being cancelled on a global scale. The impact on personal lifestyles is also being transformed as precautions, including self-isolation, are implemented to protect against the spread of the virulent disease.
New cases are being reported in Bahrain, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. In the UAE the government of Dubai has announced that some state employees will now be able to work from home via a remote work system.
Little did we foresee that the global lockdown would become extended to last for some 18 months.
However, after the cancellation of Intersec Dubai 2021 due to worldwide Covid restrictions, how very brave and refreshing it was to see Messe Frankfurt Middle East GmbH, the organisers of Intersec, go ahead under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mansoor bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and supported by Dubai Civil Defence, Dubai Police, and the Dubai Police Academy to stage the 2022 edition of the Intersec in January last.
Some remaining international travel restrictions and associated requirements clearly affected both Intersec’s ‘normal’ visitor and exhibitor numbers compared to the steady growth of previous years, but the Show went ahead over an active and busy three days with 70% of exhibitors reporting making new contacts, and 67% expecting post-show business. In addition, 60% of visitors drawn from 108 countries saw Intersec as the most important trade fair in the MENA region.
The fire protection and safety sector appears now to be getting back to its previous business activity level after the extended effects of Covid, and it is heartening to see several examples of new technology and advanced design innovations making their mark. Just a few examples of these areas include the world’s first fully electric fire engine, aerial ladders, firefighter PPE and rescue tools.
One financial projection for the Middle East Fire Safety systems and equipment market makes welcome reading in predicting a 2.6% compound annual growth to 2025 accumulating a combined value of US$2.3 billion. The key drivers for the Middle East appear to be led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Turkey, with an increasing demand for sophisticated detection and firefighting systems, with the bulk of the demand emanating from the commercial and industrial buildings sector.
In pre-Covid times, the Gulf States have traditionally hosted ever-growing major international events, both cultural and sporting, which provide challenges in terms of public security, and a great emphasis on fire safety and protection.
After the long global effect of Covid and its protracted restrictions, one such major international sporting event coming to the Gulf to look forward to is the 2022 FIFA Football World Cup being staged in Qatar and commencing on 21 November.
Ever since this competition was awarded to Qatar in 2010, construction and planning has proceeded apace. This global competition and the worldwide millions that will view the matches will bring an unprecedented focus to Qatar during the month-long competition. The Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy is the Qatari government body with overall responsibility for the World Cup tournament.
The statistics involved in staging the World Cup are truly staggering. There are eight new football stadia across Qatar, together with training pitches embracing 140,000 seats and 2.5 million square yards of pitches, costing an estimated US$ 2.7 billion.
Linking all seven Qatari host cities is the new US$ 15 billion Metro rail development with 37 stations, whilst a new US$ 824 million Mega Mall in the capital Doha is a significant central flagship project.
Qatar’s spending on infrastructure since the award of the competition in 2010, including the new Metro system and new hotels, is projected to be $200bn, making the overall direct cost of staging the 2022 World Cup at $6.5bn.
The World Cup tournament kicks off on Monday, 21 November at the Al Bayt stadium in Al Khor with the first match that will feature the host country. With a design inspired by traditional nomadic tents, the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt stadium will, in addition to the opening match of the World Cup 2022, host fixtures up until the semi-finals. The final will be played at the 80,000-seat Lusail Stadium in Doha a week before Christmas on Sunday, 18 December.
The October 2022 edition of Gulf Fire will contain a special feature on the Qatar World Cup new stadium, its visitor infrastructure and the fire safety features involved.