UAE pulled off a 'spectacular' Expo 2020: BIE chief

Expo's 23 million on-site visitors and 197 million virtual guests are a testimony to how the Emirates has exceeded all expectations



A huge crowd waits outside the pavilions in Expo2020 Dubai on Monday. March 21, 2022. Photo by Shihab
A huge crowd waits outside the pavilions in Expo2020 Dubai on Monday. March 21, 2022. Photo by Shihab
by

Nandini Sircar

Published: Thu 31 Mar 2022, 4:36 PM

The Expo 2020 Dubai has exceeded expectations and went the extra mile to create one of the most memorable expos, overcoming several challenges posed by a pandemic that has rocked the world.

Dubai's Expo has shown what an ambitious country like the UAE can achieve, putting the Arab world and the Middle East on the world map while raising the bar for future Expos.

In the final press briefing of Dubai Expo 2020, Dimitri Kerkentzes, Secretary-General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), said, "For the Arab world, the Middle East, North Africa, it is vital for every corner of the planet to host this type of events. We strive to ensure that these events are not restricted to certain countries. It needs to be truly global. It's unfair that the Middle East has never been able to show itself what it truly is, not what we read all the time in the newspapers but to show what the aspirations are of these countries and this region as a whole.

"I truly believe it was the right time to host an Expo here. It helps when you have a leadership and a government like the UAE that is willing to put in every effort to make sure to pull this off in such a spectacular way as it has been done. I am sorry that it comes to an end today. But all great things must come to an end otherwise, it wouldn't be so special.

"I think this is an opportunity where the Middle East has finally shown everybody what is truly their values and ideals. This is definitely one of the most memorable moments in my career."

While the curtain will come down on Expo 2020 Dubai today, with an extravagant closing ceremony celebrating six spectacular months at Al Wasl Plaza, Kerkentzes reaffirmed that Expo's 23 million on-site visitors and 197 million virtual guests are a testimony to how the UAE has pushed the boundaries to unexpected levels.

While the curtain will come down on Expo 2020 Dubai today with a magnificent closing ceremony celebrating six spectacular months at Al Wasl Plaza, Kerkentzes reaffirmed that Expo's 23 million on-site visitors and 197 million virtual guests are a testimony to how the UAE has pushed the boundaries to unexpected levels.

"We always think of the pandemic in a negative connotation, but the event has had a much greater impact than I think we ever hoped it would. All the benchmarks that were set pre-pandemic have been met during the pandemic. That is where we need to acknowledge and congratulate the organisers, which is the UAE and all the participating countries."

He explained countries had to rethink their content, "not just in terms of sanitisation and touch screens but in terms of humankind and what we needed for the future. A lot of content did not come up in six or seven years, but much of it came up in the one year pause that we took."

Tangible and Intangible Legacy

Shining light on the lasting legacy of the Dubai Expo 2020 and its metrics for success, Kerkentzes points out, "One of the intangible legacies that will move forward to Japan in Osaka in 2025 is that the education of our youth is vital, and Expos are for the education of the public.

"I need to get my children to push this message forward and have a cultured appreciation of the planet, the world, and the different societies we have around us. This is one of the strongest legacies - how will the youth be involved? Here we went one step further we started from all citizens and focused on the youth…who are the future. Youth always played a central role in what Dubai Expo 2020 should mean not only for the UAE but also for the region and the 190 plus who participated in this event."

"This whole ideology that has come through from Dubai will now play an even bigger role in how all participants of the Expo 2025 and future events will continue to develop their content. What we need to see is how this will transform in 2025."

Highlighting harmony and collaboration that was visible through the entirety of its operations, Kerkentzes says, "I have not seen a more powerful message of unity and solidarity than what was shown here on this site, not during the past six months but during 18 months of preparation, working through challenges and on achieving everything we set out for and surpassing every belief we had of what this event could mean for us as people and for the planet."

Sustainability is at the heart of Expo

Stressing the need for laying the foundation for a sustainable and tangible legacy for future generations, Kerkentzes underlines, "Expo theme is about sustainability, what we are looking at is that the site must be useful to the citizens afterwards. Here, the idea of a legacy plan before the conception of Expo means that the entire site has certain inherent sustainability built into it, which is vital. The local communities will be using the site afterwards who'll be living and working here."

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"This is key to Expo, that it should serve a purpose after it's over. Even for the country pavilions, I have seen the plan. Some of them will be dismantled here and rebuilt elsewhere. French Pavilion, for example, will be dismantled piece by piece and rebuilt in France. So the materials wouldn't go to waste.

Others [pavilions] will remain here and serve as cultural centres, and the government will use them for other purposes. This is becoming the guiding principle for future Expos. It's not just the site, but we think about the sustainability of these pavilions. They'll pop up again around the world."

"Come back here after some time to see how the government repurposes it and see life coming back in the site the way we know it today. Tomorrow, of course, will be different. But to see that life coming back to the site is the heart of sustainability.

"It's not about how many people walked through the gates. It's about what they saw when they walked through the gates. Every country, through the idea, 'one pavilion, one nation', has put forward interesting thematic content... an incredible array of cultures, values, and ideas. In the end, it is what citizens who visited will take forward with them."


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