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Updated: January 5, 2010 13:29 IST

Burj Khalifa - Will Dubai's fortunes soar with new vertical city?

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Standing Tall: Burj Khalifa , the world's tallest building during the official opening ceremony in Dubai.
Standing Tall: Burj Khalifa , the world's tallest building during the official opening ceremony in Dubai.

Dubai opened the world’s tallest skyscraper on Monday, and in a surprise move renamed the gleaming glass-and-metal tower Burj Khalifa in a nod to the leader of neighbouring Abu Dhabi - the oil-rich sheikdom, which came to its rescue during the financial meltdown.

A multimedia presentation witnessed by Dubai’s ruler and thousands of onlookers at the base of the tower said the building was 828 metres, or 2717 feet, tall.

The developer of the newly-opened tower said it cost about $1.5 billion to build the tapering metal-and-glass spire billed as a “vertical city” of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

The Burj’s developers say they are confident in the safety of the tower, which is more than twice the height of New York’s Empire State Building’s roof.

Greg Sang, Emaar’s director of projects, said the Burj has “refuge floors” at 25 to 30 story intervals that are more fire resistant and have separate air supplies in case of emergency. And its reinforced concrete structure, he said, makes it stronger than steel frame skyscrapers.

“It’s a lot more robust,” he said. “A plane won’t be able to slice through the Burj like it did through the steel columns of the World Trade Centre.”

Despite the past year of hardships, the tower’s developer and other officials were in a festive mood, trying to bring the world’s focus on Dubai’s future potential rather than past mistakes.

“Crises come and go. And cities move on,” Mohammed Alabbar, chairman of the tower’s developer Emaar Properties, told reporters before the inauguration. “You have to move on. Because if you stop taking decisions, you stop growing.”

Emaar’s Alabbar said the landmark Burj is 90 per cent sold in a mix of residential units, offices and other space, offering a counterpoint to Dubai’s financial woes.

The developer has only said the spire stands more than 2625 feet (800 metres) tall. Alabbar said Dubai’s ruler will announce the height at the inauguration ceremony.

At a reported height of 2,684 feet (818 metres), the Burj Dubai long ago vanquished its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

But the tower’s record-seeking developers didn’t stop there. The building boasts the most stories and highest occupied floor of any building in the world, and ranks as the world’s tallest structure, beating out a television mast in North Dakota.

“We weren’t sure how high we could go,” said Bill Baker, the building’s structural engineer, who is in Dubai for the inauguration. “It was kind of an exploration ... A learning experience”

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