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How Expo 2020 Dubai hopes to inspire action to tackle pressing global challenges

DUBAI: A multi-reuse rocket. A desert farm where food grows using salt water. Ephemeral theaters. A hyperloop car where passengers feel what it’s like to travel in a high-speed vacuum. These are just a few of the experiences visitors can have over the next six months at Expo 2020 Dubai.

Since 2013, when Dubai conquered a panel in Paris with its presentation, the exhibition has easily been the most talked about event in the UAE.

Indeed, Expo 2020 has become synonymous with an event to be celebrated not only for the scale and ambition of the projects and pavilions on display, but also because the organizers hope it will be a game-changer for host Dubai.

The event, which kicked off on Thursday with a grand opening ceremony, would feature more than 200 participating entities, including around 192 countries, and include 60 events. Anticipation grew as the opening was delayed for a year due to the pandemic.

The fact that the exhibition is taking place on such a scale with “25 million visits expected”, even though travel remains difficult after 18 months of closures and postponements, is probably an achievement in itself.

A 4.38 km² site in South Dubai near the new Al-Maktoum International Airport, the city’s second, has been transformed over the past eight years. The focal point is Al-Wasl Plaza, dominated by a massive cast steel dome designed by Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill Architecture of the United States.

The permanent structure is 130 meters wide and 67 meters high. It can project images both internally and externally and will host the main opening ceremonies of the exhibition.

Expo 2020 Dubai has an ambitious goal: to create lasting change in the world.

“What is extraordinary is the diversity of programs that Expo 2020 has put together – it is a global celebration evident in events and festivities centered on 192 participating countries, all showcasing their own culture, heritage and innovation ”, Sumathi Ramanathan, vice president of marketing. strategy and sales, Arab News said.

“Most importantly, Expo 2020 reflects the inclusive spirit of the United Arab Emirates, home to over 200 nationalities. “

The World’s Fair dates back to 1851 when the first event, then called the “Great Exhibition of Industrial Works of All Nations”, took place in London.

It was the first of what are known today as the World’s Fairs, which take place every five years in an international city for a period of three to six months. Dubai is the 34th World Expo to take place and follows on from the one held in Milan in 2015. The next is slated to take place in 2025 in the Japanese city of Osaka, which also hosted the 1970 exhibition.

Today, the goal is to find solutions to global problems and challenges. Countries around the world have built pavilions that showcase their latest architectural and technological innovations, according to a particular theme.

For Expo 2020, it is about “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, with the aim of exploring possibilities in the areas of opportunity, mobility and sustainability. The technology exhibited must be unique, pioneering and sustainable.

The event, Ramanathan said, is taking place at “an inflection point in our society,” when the act of coming together and celebrating together has become a rare occurrence.

“People haven’t been able to get together for almost two years now,” Ramanathan said. “We are hosting an event at a time when the world is trying to deal with the challenges of a global pandemic.

A general view shows the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on September 30, 2021. (Photo by Giuseppe Cacace / AFP)

“People haven’t been able to meet, interact, experience, engage or interact in a physical environment, and that’s what makes this exhibit incredibly special – the ability to be able to bring together a platform for collaboration and cooperation at a time when the world may need it most.

Despite the challenges, Expo 2020’s ambitious goal of delivering 25 million visits in its six months – it runs until March 31, 2022 – remains.

Every country of the original 192 attendees, Ramanathan said, comes to Expo 2020. And it’s not just the country pavilions hoping to grab attention.


Visitors can see a host of other attractions, such as a collaboration with Cartier to design and host a pavilion dedicated to the advancement of women in the Middle East.

As it does just weeks before the kick-off of the United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP26, in Glasgow, UK, Expo 2020 predictably places an emphasis on protecting environment and sustainability.

Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, designed by UK-based Grimshaw Architects, aims to meet the highest accreditation available for sustainable architecture, LEED Platinum certification.

A view of Terra, the sustainability pavilion on the site of the Dubai World Expo in Dubai. (AP Photo / Kamran Jebreili)

There’s also Alif – The Mobility Pavilion, designed by award-winning architectural firm Foster + Partners. It features what it says is the world’s largest passenger elevator, which can carry over 160 people at a time.

The pavilion is dedicated to discoveries in advanced mobility devices and features a partially open-air 330 meter track allowing visitors to see new gadgets and technologies in motion.

In typical Dubai style, the opening ceremony featured high-tech performances and an impressive lineup of international stars. They included opera singer Andrea Bocelli; classical pianist Lang Lang; international pop stars Ellie Goulding, Andra Day and Angelique Kidjo; and regional stars such as Mohammed Abdo, Ahlam Al-Shamsi and Hussain Al-Jassmi.

Ramanathan said more than 1,000 artists and tech teams worked on the 90-minute extravaganza, which organizers say will change the way people around the world perceive Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

Artists perform at the opening ceremony of the Dubai Expo 2020 on September 30, 2021. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)

She said ticket sales were strong, with demand increasing from countries around the world including the UK, France, Germany, the United States, Africa and the Middle East. East and North Africa.

All a foreign visitor needs to be eligible to visit the event is a single successful PCR test and a plane ticket.

“The focus is really on what this exhibition will mean to you based on what interests you,” said Ramanathan, adding that the programming is designed both for the individual and for a larger collective, than it is business networking, social and environmental change, knowledge and learning, space travel and exploration, or arts and culture.

What is on offer is an exercise in broadening and expanding knowledge about other people and places as well as introducing the power of new philosophies and ideologies, she said.

“What is most interesting is the fusion of the programming that we offer,” Ramanathan told Arab News. “You can see the traditional, like the heritage of each country, and the most cutting-edge technology and innovation.”

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Twitter: @rebeccaaproctor

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