Explained: Why is it called 'Expo 2020' when it's happening in 2021?

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Photo: Dubai Media Office
Photo: Dubai Media Office

Dubai - Last year marked the first time a World Expo was postponed, instead of being cancelled

By Sahim Salim

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Published: Tue 28 Sep 2021, 12:23 PM

Last updated: Tue 28 Sep 2021, 1:06 PM

Sneak-peeks into the Expo 2020 site suggest that the world is in for a multi-sensory treat once the mega fair begins its six-month run on October 1.

Have you ever wondered, though, why the event is called Expo 2020, despite the fact that it’s happening in 2021?

Such is the buzz the event has created that it’s difficult to believe the region’s first World Expo had to be postponed from its original dates by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

In May 2020, the General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) — the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos — had approved the UAE Government’s request to postpone the event by a year.

Participating countries had expressed the need to postpone the Expo to overcome the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. This marked the first time a World Expo was postponed, instead of being cancelled.

However, the event retained the name ‘Expo 2020 Dubai’ despite it being staged in 2021.

This is not the first event to have kept a bygone year in its name despite its postponement. Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 retained its name despite the fact that it was held in 2021. Similarly, UEFA EURO 2020 kept the ‘2020’ in its name “to honour the event's original vision”.

This is largely done due to branding and marketing reasons.

The Covid effect

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Borders were shut, flights grounded; and schools and offices closed. Events, including global ones like the Expo 2020, had to be postponed.

However, the world stood strong and most of the global events were postponed to help countries recover.

As the BIE approved the Expo 2020 dates change, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Expo 2020 Dubai Higher Committee, had thanked the BIE member states for their “continued commitment to contributing to a World Expo in Dubai that will play a pivotal role in shaping our post-pandemic world at a time when it will be most needed”.

The BIE’s secretary-general, Dimitri S Kerkentzes, had applauded the member states’ support as a “renewed sign of solidarity”. It demonstrated the “shared will to work together in creating the future”, he’d said.

“In their support for the one-year postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai, member states of the BIE are giving the world the opportunity to reconvene in 2021, when together, we can address the challenges facing humanity and celebrate the unity and solidarity that strengthen us. With its theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, Expo 2020 Dubai will offer the world a unique platform to share the lessons, solutions and ideas for a better tomorrow,” he added.

Unprecedented Expo

Thanks to its safety rules and a robust Covid vaccination campaign, the UAE is the perfect destination to host the world.

Daily Covid cases are at a year-low and the UAE has the highest vaccination rate in the world. As an abundance of caution, a Covid test has been made mandatory for unvaccinated Expo visitors aged 18 and above.


>> Expo 2020 Dubai: 5-lane drive-through Covid-19 PCR testing facility set up

His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, had earlier this month promised an “unprecedented” event.

“The six months of the event will go down in history for ideas and inventions that will benefit humanity for years to come.”

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