Expo 2020 Dubai: Meet the creative team behind the grand opening ceremony

Dubai - Award-winning squad boast Olympics, Cirque du Soleil, among credits


Dhanusha Gokulan

Published: Thu 30 Sep 2021, 6:58 PM

Last updated: Thu 30 Sep 2021, 7:12 PM

Event organisers have been co-curating and co-producing the collaborative spectacle that is going to be the Dubai Expo 2020 opening ceremony. The team is led by Scott Givens, executive producer and CEO of FiveCurrents, whose credits include 62 iconic ceremonies, including the most Olympic ceremonies ever.

It also features Franco Dragone, the acclaimed artistic director behind ground-breaking productions such as La Perle and Cirque du Soleil; and Jared Sweet, the award-winning creative director behind ceremonies spanning six countries.

Meet Franco Dragone

One of the world's most sought-after artistic directors today, Franco Dragone is a Belgian theatre director. He is the founder and artistic director of Dragone, a creative company specialising in the creation of large-scale theatre shows. He is also known for his work with Cirque du Soleil and Celine Dion.

Franco moved from a small Italian village, Cairano, to Belgium with his family as a young child. They settled in a flourishing mining town, La Louvière, where Franco grew up. His passion for performance culminated in him studying drama at the Conservatory in Mons, where he fell in love with commedia dell'arte and political theatre. In the 1980s, Franco followed his passions across the Atlantic and joined the nascent Cirque du Soleil, where he was instrumental in their planetary ascent during the 1980s and '90s.

In 2000, he amicably split from Cirque du Soleil and formed his own company called the Franco Dragone Entertainment Group and later shortened to 'Dragone', based in his hometown of La Louvière in Belgium. Franco was in charge of the opening ceremony show for the 2010 South American Games that took place in Medellín, Colombia on March 19, 2010.

However, Franco is no newcomer to the UAE. In early 2013, Dragone produced, created and directed Story of a Fort, Legacy of a Nation, a show that ran from February 28 through March 9, 2013, as the centrepiece event of the Qasr al-Hosn Festival in Abu Dhabi. The show celebrated Emirati history with technology, acrobatics, and traditional Emirati dance and music. In 2017, Dragone's show La Perle opened in Al Habtoor City, Dubai, in a custom-made 10-story theatre.


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Meet Scott Givens

Givens' creative prowess is world-renowned with more than 400 major events to his credit over the past 30 years, including 15 Olympic Games and the 50th anniversary of the Disneyland theme park.

Having worked previously on UAE National Day ceremonies has brought his unique vision to the Al Wasl Dome with an uplifting spectacle that underscores the pressing need to achieve a global sustainable existence.

Givens said, "We're telling the UAE's story to the world through a beautifully-spoken presentation, but we're backing it up with images and amazing projections, giving it a fresh, vibrant perception, with more layers and an elevated story."

"I would describe my role as a sculptor. I take Franco Dragone's clay – his ideas – and I mould them into the story. And then I need to ensure the story is communicated in a way that is both clear and nuanced."

Commenting on where his inspiration comes from, Givens said, "It comes from the place we're in, the stunning Al Wasl Plaza, and from Expo 2020 itself. The organisers know who they are, what their brand is, what they stand for, and what they want to say to the world. And then, of course, from Dubai itself, which has such an abundant heritage. We had such a rich starting point for our creativity."

Meet Jared Sweet

Jared is an award-winning artistic and creative director with 20-years of experience developing, implementing and directing creative concepts. He was responsible for developing the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic brand and instrumental in helping define a visual template for Salt Lake 2002.

He immerses himself in the cultures of the countries where he works and strives to find fresh perspectives of culturally founded ideas. During the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games, Jared was responsible for many of the creative components developed, including the production design for both LiveCity Vancouver Olympic Live sites and the live show and video components of the nightly show.

Jared served as the associate creative director for the Guadalajara 2011 Pan and Parapan American Games Ceremonies. Jared was the show director of the 150th Anniversary Celebration of Cinco de Mayo in Puebla, Mexico, broadcast to more than 300 million people worldwide.

Jared also served as creative director for the Toronto 2015 Pan American Games Closing Ceremony and Parapan American Games Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Additionally, Jared was the creative director for the Rose Parade Opening, and closing shows 2014 and 2015, UAE's 44th National Day, Copa America's 2016 Centennial Celebration, and SeaWorld's Orca Encounter in 2017. He also served as a creative director for the Clinton Global Initiative for several years, creating the presentations given by celebrity and political leaders of the world.

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