Millions of people will start converging on Dubai this week as Covid-delayed Expo 2020, the world’s biggest event since the pandemic, finally unveils its sparkling pavilions in the desert.
The Expo site in the dusty suburb of Dubai remained strictly banned during its one-year postponement, but the envelopes will be unveiled in an opening ceremony Thursday in the presence of Emirati royalty.
Architectural wonders and a long list of technological innovations will feature among the exhibits, or pavilions, showcasing the ingenuity of more than 190 countries.
The first World’s Fair was held in London in 1851, when it was housed in the purpose-built Crystal Palace, and it featured the Eiffel Tower – designed as a temporary attraction – in Paris in 1889.
The Dubai edition, the first in the Middle East, is set to be the region’s largest ever event with estimates of 25 million visitors over its six-month lifespan.
The next biggest event in the world during the pandemic was the Tokyo Olympics, where strict virus rules saw spectators banned from almost all venues.
Expo 2020 will however be indelibly tinted by the pandemic, with mandatory masks and social distancing on site. Visitors will need to be vaccinated or have a negative PCR test to enter.
The United Arab Emirates, a population of 10 million, has reported a rapid decline in coronavirus cases in recent weeks, falling below 300 on Sunday – less than half the figure a fortnight earlier.
The ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, is generally optimistic about the fair, promising “the most exceptional exhibition in the history of the event”.
“The talented citizens of our country were able to turn this vision into a global plan for success, sending the world the message that our commitment to excellence makes us a significant contributor in shaping the future of the world,” he said. he said, according to official media.
– Robot panda –
The fair is another feather in the hat for Dubai, which has long sought recognition with such achievements as the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world at 828 meters (2,717 feet).
UAE media highlighted a report from a travel agency that named the building as the world’s most wanted monument, with the National asking, “Did Expo 2020 make Burj Khalifa the new Eiffel Tower? “
“The heart of the World Expo has always been global showmanship, and the UAE’s built environment is well positioned to give it just that,” an opinion piece said in the newspaper.
The postponement has worked well in one regard for the United Arab Emirates, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of its founding on December 2.
Workers put the finishing touches to the site’s infrastructure and facilities this week as time passed before the delayed launch.
A succession of politicians, business leaders, celebrities and sportsmen are expected at the Expo, whose various attractions include the Harlem Globetrotters and a Chinese panda robot.
A full-size hyperloop cabin, touted as the future of long-distance travel and transportation, is part of the exhibits, while Egypt imported an ancient coffin from the Pharaonic era.
China has one of the largest pavilions – a lamp-shaped creation lit by LEDs – while Morocco’s is made from traditional mud construction methods.
The Dutch have a pyramid covered with edible plants and irrigated by solar rainwater.
The main themes of the Expo are opportunity, mobility and sustainability, and the site is centered on the imposing Al Wasl (“Connection”) Square, which will be lit by 360-degree projections on its giant dome.
The exhibition grounds will be open to the public on Friday.
© 2021 AFP