Countdown begins for Expo 2020 Dubai

190 countries, 25 million visitors, 182 days, 220 big-ticket events. The pandemic nothwithstanding, the upcoming world expo promises to be bigger and better than ever.

Come July 18, 2021, and tickets for the Expo 2020 to be held in Dubai between October 1 and March 31 will be up for grabs on their website. And also with more than 2,500 authorised ticket resellers, including online travel agents, tour operators, hotel groups and airlines from 100-plus markets around the world. Twenty-five million people are expected to visit the specially built complex over the six-month period, partaking of 220 big-ticket events and experiences spanning headline acts, business and trade talks, opinion leader interviews, and celebrity appearances.

Expo 2020 dubai, dubai, uae
The Terra Pavilion in the foreground and Al Wasl Plaza behind it. Image: Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai.

More than 190 countries will participate in this mega event, the first world expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region. It promises to be 182 days of high-octane, high-calibre interaction and entertainment that is all orchestrated towards just one primary goal – to bring the world together towards a better future. This is something that Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General of Expo 2020 Dubai, is very passionate about and committed to. “With so many nations participating and more than 70 nationalities within the expo team itself, everyone will have an equal opportunity to have their voice heard in this global conversation,” she believes.

Mandy Keegan, Vice President, Media Services, agrees, “It’s the most inclusive expo yet. It’s the first time that all the countries will have their own pavilion to showcase their culture, history, business and tourism.” For example, the Philippines pavilion is designed to resemble a coral reef. Understandably, this archipelago nation emphasises the importance of saving the oceans. In the Bahamas pavilion, you can experience a hurricane, while at the Czech pavilion, you can witness some cutting-edge technology that turns air to water. The Malaysia pavilion is itself carbon net-zero. Thus, technology and conservation are shown to go hand in hand across the exhibits of many nations, paving the way for a brighter future for the blue planet.

Eye on India at the expo

The impressive India pavilion, built with environment-friendly technology, is purportedly the second largest at the expo and will be retained as a legacy pavilion post the end of the expo. The country will further be well represented with musical genius AR Rahman mentoring the all-woman Firdaus Orchestra and two concerts, which will be top draws, actress Sonam Kapoor at the forefront, momentous Diwali celebrations to be held on India National Day, the cuisine available at several of the 200-plus food outlets, and a country pavilion that focuses on the five Ts – talent, trade, tradition, tourism, and technology – that are shaping the future of the nation.

Expo 2020 dubai, dubai, uae
First look at the India Pavilion. Still from the media briefing video courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai.

Food for thought and action

While nations are already preparing to harness the tremendous potential for trade and multi-partite meetings and agreements, in keeping with the expo’s purpose of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, there will also be a series of events around the ‘Flip Your World View’ concept. Nadia Vergee, Chief of Staff, Expo 2020, explains, “For this, we have partnered with Gapminder Foundation, which uses big data to get rid of misconceptions around the world.” The aim is to bring together private-sector pioneers, UAE ministries and international organisations to create a platform for real action and lasting change.”

Theme weeks will aim to be idea incubators to answer some of the world’s most pressing questions. How do we work together to better manage climate change and protect biodiversity? How do we safely and productively explore new frontiers in space? How do we live and grow in harmony with our planet? How can we foster a greater common understanding to enable more tolerant and inclusive societies? How do we harness and challenge our knowledge today to prepare for the future? How will we balance the impact of the expansion of our digital world with our physical reality when it comes to travel and connectivity? What do we need to do together today for a better world in 2030? How can we create a healthy, happy world suffused with good health and wellness? How do we sustainably grow food to meet future demand? How will we protect water, our most precious resource today, for tomorrow? These and other issues will be discussed threadbare.

And plenty of oomph too…

If it’s pure spectacle that you want to visit for, Amna Abulhoul, Executive Director, Events & Entertainment, has a long list of experiences that visitors will have access to. With 60 events daily, there’s a lot to choose from. Be it Acapella from Croatia, Russian Bolshoi or Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Talks by astronauts and rocks from the Apollo 12 mission or a World Chess Championship. Celebrating Christmas or the Mexican Day of the Dead.

Expo 2020 dubai, dubai, uae
The architectural and technological marvel Al Wasl Plaza, which means ‘connection’ in Arabic, is at the heart of the expo site. Image: Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai.

Setting the stage for the future

Located on a 4.38 sq km site adjacent to the Al Maktoum International Airport in Dubai South, the complex has many dazzling architectural marvels, including the 21-metres tall carbon fibre entrances, and the Al Wasl Plaza, crowned by the latticed dome, which is the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface and one on which laser projections can be viewed from within as well as from outside it. The plaza connects three districts themed sustainability, mobility and opportunity, besides being the hub for restaurants, fountains and even lush indoor gardens. Of these, the stunning Terra – the sustainability pavilion –built to be net-zero for both energy and water, features 1,055 photovoltaic panels arranged on a roof canopy atop a series of ‘Energy Trees’.

Built with a meaningful and measurable long-term legacy in mind that goes beyond just the six months of the Expo, the breathtakingly beautiful site will later transform into District 2020 – a model global community that will rethink the cities of the future.

Expo 2020 dubai, dubai, uae
The future is now. District 2020 will be a city like no other. Image: Courtesy Expo 2020 Dubai.

We’ve certainly come a long way from the first ever World’s Fair held in London’s Crystal Palace, back in 1851. The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation responsible for overseeing and regulating international exhibitions and for fostering their core values of education, innovation and cooperation. Dubai was awarded the chance to host the 2020 expo as far back as November 2013.

While the global pandemic played spoilsport last year, the organisers are determined to execute a safe event and have taken all possible measures, from consulting international medical experts on safety protocols to vaccinating the entire team involved against the virus for free.

They want to create a once-in-a-generation event that will remain in the world’s memory for all the right reasons. Urban legend has it that it was in 1904 at the World’s Fair in St Louis, Missouri, in the US, that the world’s first ice-cream cones are said to have been created. We’ll wait to see what wonderful innovations and inventions will emerge from the meeting of minds at the latest world expo in Dubai.

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