Following the news that Expo 2020 Dubai will finally open its gates on 1 October 2021, after eight years of planning, considerable hype and a one-year delay caused by COVID-19;

Richard Thompson, Editorial Director of GlobalData’s MEED, offers his view:

“After eight years in the making, it is finally showtime. Expo 2020 is the biggest event ever held in the Middle East and is an opportunity for Dubai and the UAE to take a leading role on issues such as climate change, public health and the need for international collaboration. It is also the first global event open to the public since the start of the pandemic, and is an opportunity for Dubai and the UAE to herald the post-pandemic restart.

“Other than the Tokyo Olympics, few recent events have faced the challenges that Expo 2020 has. As well as delaying its start, COVID-19’s impact on travel means physical visitors to the expo will fall below the numbers originally anticipated. The pandemic has also shifted global focus away from trade and onto public health and vaccines. More fundamentally, globalization, the economic model that has been so beneficial to Dubai, is in doubt.

“Despite the challenges, Expo 2020 has already delivered much. It has made a successful eight-year contribution to Dubai’s image-building efforts, which have seen 192 countries build pavilions at Expo – including Israel. The event still presents Dubai as the gateway to the region. Further, Expo boosted the UAE during a long slump in oil prices, with investment in real estate and infrastructure projects ensuring that the emirates thrived while the rest of the region stalled.

“Its legacy is in Dubai’s 2040 masterplan, which envisions the city as a greater metropolitan area built around five interconnected centers, of which the Expo 2020 center is one.

“However, COVID-19 has placed an unexpected and important obligation on the Expo 2020 host. The world is reeling from the pandemic and the effects of climate change, and international collaboration is needed. Dubai must use Expo to bring together key actors and influencers to counter the forces of self interest that are preventing joint action.”

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