When it opened its doors on October 1, 2021, many parts of the world were still battling Covid-19 and its numerous variants and many doubters wondered about the wisdom of unveiling a gathering at a scale that world has rarely seen, if ever.
Yet, the organisers of Expo2020 Dubai and the rulers of the tiny Emirate, the most glamorous of the seven that make the United Arab Emirates decided to go ahead with the inauguration, though with numerous checks and balances in an attempt to keep the pandemic out of the mini-city which had been specially created in the midst of the desert to be home to the Expo2020.
Expo 2020 originally scheduled to be held from October 20, 2020 to April 10, 2021, but due to the pandemic outbreak, it was postponed and held from October 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022. With over USD 7 billion in investment and 240 million hours of labour, the Expo saw over 30,000 events spread over the six months of festivities.
The Expo displayed works and pavilions from 192 countries under the theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. It was aimed at inspiring people via three more sub-themes- Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
Dubai Expo 2020 masterplan was designed by HOK, while two other thematic districts are designed by world-renowned studios: the Sustainability Pavilion “Terra” by Grimshaw Architects and the Mobility Pavilion ‘Alif’ by Foster + Partners.
The Expo2020 Dubai turned out to be the best and biggest Expo organised so far. By the end, it attracted over 23 million visitors, with a large chunk coming from December-March period. On March 22, 10 days before it ended, the organisers announced that 20,819,155 physical visits had been recorded. The expo had also conquered the virtual world, with over 197 million online visits registered.
It continuously attracted world’s biggest names in music for specially-curated concerts at the Expo. At the concluding ceremony, Grammy award-winning cellist Yo-Yo, Grammy award-winning German singer Nora Jones and pop singer Christina Aguilera were some of the performers featured on the expo.
The World Expo is one of the oldest and largest global events, taking place every five years. In 2013, Dubai was named as the host city by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) general assembly in Paris.
This had brought relief as just four years earlier, the city-state had suffered a real-estate crash in the Great Recession and was rescued by a USD 20 billion bailout from oil-rich Abu Dhabi.
As property prices roared back, the Expo – the first ever world’s fair in the Middle East, appeared to signal Dubai’s troubles were behind it. The event was predicted to draw 25 million visitors and push Dubai into the top tier of global financial centres by generating USD 33.4 billion in investment until 2031.
But, in the end, the billions of dollars, frenzy of fantastical construction projects and barrage of publicity proved powerless against the coronavirus pandemic, which forced Dubai to postpone the event for a year.
Dubai raced to widespread vaccination so it could open its borders and relax virus restrictions early, earning it a reputation as a party haven for tourists escaping lockdowns back home.
Now, the next expo is slated to take place in Osaka in 2025. Due to the delay caused by the pandemic, the Japanese organisers have just three years, instead of the usual four, to finalise preparations.