Dubai, UAE based Al Laith Event Services energised imagination and some incredible teamwork to come up with an inventive engineering solution to construct three massive mobile scenic horses' heads, which were an integral part of the spectacular closing parade of the 2011 Dubai World Cup horseracing event at Meydan Racecourse, Dubai.
Working for the show's producers and designers M-IS, Al Laith was commissioned to engineer and develop the superstructures and movement systems for the 3 heads. Each measured 20 metres high, 19 metres long and were 3 metres wide.
Al Laith had to ensure that they could safely be 'ridden' by up to 26 performers and driven for at least 1000 metres - in potentially seasonal windy conditions - for the celebrations following the conclusion of the 2011 Dubai World Cup.
The heads represented the three legendary equestrian bloodlines - the Darley Arabian, the Godolphin Arabian, and the Byerly Turk - from which all modern thoroughbred racehorses are descended.
The Horse Head project was managed for Al Laith by Ross Cameron. He led their team of 60 expert scaffolders including site supervisor Suresh Thapa and foreman Ram Rawal, and worked closely with Al Laith's former neighbours Mammoet Industries who supplied the heavy-duty self drive trailers that were utilised as bases for the heads. Kenny Falconer from the UK assisted in the structural and mechanical engineering, and Nick White, contract scaffolding manager for Al Laith, oversaw all the bracing and ensured that the strength and structural integrity of the Heads met the health & safety requirements.
Cameron comments, "It was an incredible one-off project which really engaged the minds and spirit of everyone involved, illustrating brilliantly what a can-do mentality and positive attitudes all round can achieve".
The project received the green light just before the build had to start and had just 3 weeks to construct the Head Infrastructure.
The first thing to happen was Cameron meeting with Mammoet and discussing the capabilities of the trailers - which more commonly work on oil fields and are used for moving massive pieces of specialist industrial drilling, excavating and shipbuilding machinery or even buildings. This was the only vehicle that the Al Laith team knew would work.
The trailers each weighed 50 tonnes to start with and had 14 axel lines, each with 4 wheels. Al Laith added about 25 tonnes of scaff and 48 tonnes of ballast to each, so each trailer when fully laden with the completed Horses Head weighed about 125 tonnes!
On site at Meydan, the Al Laith crew built a 75 metre long, 25 metre high by 15 metre wide garage, so the head structures could be constructed inside sheltered from the wind and dust storms that are so prevalent in Dubai at this time of year.
I-beam cradles were built on top of the trailer bases, forming a basic architectural superstructure, then the Horses' Heads were shaped out of standard cup-lock scaffolding, and secure performer platforms were integrated into the structures etc.,
Once this stage was finished, scenic builders Electra came in and provided all the cladding and fine tuned the shapes. They were followed by Showtex, who added the draping and finishing touches. Technical rigging points were installed by Al Laith's Neil Hobbs, then Protec added a lighting system to each Head and Delta Sound finished off with about a tonne of PA in each.
In spite of the tough deadline, the Feature Horse Heads were completed on time – providing 3 days for rehearsals before the show. Each Head was 'ridden' by between 22 and 26 cadets from the Dubai Police Academy, performing animatronic functions like billowing the silks to make the manes flow, simulating muscle movement with the drapes and berating drums.
The heads were securely lashed to the trailers with chains and steels, and guided slowly down the apron road running along in front of the main grandstand - having to deal with its assorted cambers in the process.
They travelled 1.5 Kms in some considerable glory providing a dramatic and emotional peak to the show, passing right in front of all the public grandstands and cheering crowds, halting by the track's finish line and in front of the Royal Box. It proved a hugely popular visual peak to the proceedings ahead of an amazing firework finale.
Al Laith Event Services director Jo Marshall comments, "This is without doubt one of the most interesting and rewarding projects on which we have worked in a year of many innovative and unusual challenges. Our thanks go to M-IS for putting their confidence in us, and to our fantastic team, their lateral thinking abilities, determination and ingenious engineering skills and talents - all of which combined to produce a truly memorable result".
John Young, M-IS Creative Director, concludes, "It was due to Al Laith's ingenious engineering skills and out-of-the-box thinking that the concepts for this year's theatrical spectacular at the Dubai World Cup could be realised. While M-IS continues to explore new and highly creative concepts, it is the ability of companies like Al Laith to innovate that helped us to deliver these. Many thanks go out to all the teams who helped produce an exceptional show again in 2011".
For more press info. on Al Laith Event Services, please contact Louise Stickland on +44 (0)1865 202679/+44 (0)7831 329888 or Email [email protected]'. For more general info and to contact Al Laith direct, check http://www.allaith.com or call +971 (4) 338 8882