Everything will stay: 4.38 sq km Expo 2020 site to remain as a hub for new tech, innovation

Reem Al Hashimi said Covid has taught everyone to be humble and not take things for granted

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Anjana Sankar

Published: Wed 12 Jan 2022, 11:30 AM

Expo 2020 is a symbol of human solidarity that connected 192 nations at a ‘difficult moment’, and the pandemic has taught everyone to be humble about the uncertainties of what still may come, Reem Al Hashimi, Expo’s Director General and UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, has said.

Speaking to CNN’s Richard Quest on the ‘Quest Means Business’ programme, Al Hashimi said, “The pandemic hit everyone pretty strongly. When we had to delay for a year, I think it was an important moment for all of us. When I say us, I mean the international community but also the government of Dubai. How do we be responsible hosts? How do we bring the whole world together when you still in the middle of this?"

While Dubai relied on its agility, clarity of vision, science-based approach, the minister said there was also a realisation that nothing can be taken for granted.

“I think with Covid, one has to be really humble. You can’t get ahead of yourself. You need to keep following day by day, learning more and more about it, consulting with the experts and not taking anything for granted.. not least the incredible experience this place offers.”

Al Hashimi ,who is at the helm of the ‘world’s biggest show’ that opened its doors to the world on October 1, said Expo 2020 also reinforced that “through collaboration, through strong connections, through the sharing of best practice, of knowledge, of information can we actually overcome some of these global challenges.”

On visitor numbers

When asked whether there is a natural disappointment on the visitor numbers that “it will not be what it could have been,” the minister responded, “Actually No! No.. No.. I think, three months in the middle of this pandemic, to have nine million people come through… in a country that is only ten million residents and nationals strong.. it is remarkable.”

“We are still gearing towards better targets , stronger targets and more meaningful experiences for people. But this is exciting and also special for those who come through.”

Expo 2020 Dubai has seen over 9.5 million visits in the period to 11 January, with the virtual visits touching a staggering 60 million.

What next after Expo?

The 438-hectare sprawling Expo site - estimated to be the same size as 600 football fields - will remain as a hub for new tech and innovation, said the minister. Sandwiched between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Al Hashimi said the site is a “natural sister of both Dubai and Abu Dhabi”

“It is a very strongly tech-enabled, 5G tech incredible infrastructure. Everything that we built will stay. We have several country pavilions that will also stay. We have the conference and the exhibition over there. We have the Dubai metro coming all the way through.. So, really a hub for new tech, a hub for new innovation, and plans are already in place to roll this one out after 80 days when we close,” she said.

After March when curtains will fall on Expo, 80% of its built environment will be transformed into an integrated mixed-use community called District 2020.

Learning from Expo

The minister said the visitors who came from all over the world despite the pandemic gave her and her team “lot of strength.”

“They (visitors) are excited, they are exploring. They are having a great time and they are responsible. And I think that, we derived a lot of strength from them.”

Al Hashimi said she and her team also grew and understood more about themselves and the challenges of hosting a mega event. “I think we have all grown… all of us.. I mean my team for sure. I am one of them.. I think perspective… to really get a strong sense of perspective, of resilience.. some of us can handle the pressure .. some of us can't. And that is not bad or good. That is the way our constitution is made up.”

During moments of difficulties, she said she picked herself up and relied on her team and on the country’s leadership “who have always been with us.. and their conviction in us.”


Building multilateralism

Al Hashimi said she has built “incredible relations” with countries that are at Expo and she wants to visit some of them. “I will continue to grow and continue to bring value to us as Emiratis and as the UAE.. but also, to what multilateralism means and what international collaboration means,” she said.

With 80 more days to go, Al Hashimi said she won’t take anything for granted. “We are humble at the face of what may still come and we honour every moment of having the privilege of being the host.”

At the end of March once the Expo is over what will she do? “I will take a nice break,” the minister said but quickly adding that she will come back to serve her nation, her government and her family.

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