The Road towards Expo 2020 Dubai

Interview with the Commissioners-General for Bahrain, Italy, Poland, and the Republic of Korea

The Road towards Expo 2020 Dubai

Bureau International des Expositions

Preparations for Expo 2020 Dubai are continuing as the world faces an unprecedented health crisis. While the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is affecting people’s lives in many different ways, participating countries are finding new and creative ways to interpret the theme of the Expo, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and plan their pavilions. The BIE asks H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Commissioner General for Bahrain, Paolo Glisenti, Commissioner General for Italy, Adrian Malinowski, Commissioner General for Poland, and Pyung-oh Kwon, Commissioner General for the Republic of Korea, about the journey towards the next World Expo.

 

How do you think the current health crisis will impact the content of Expo 2020 Dubai?

Pyung-oh Kwon: The Covid-19 pandemic threatens mutual trust between countries and closes international borders. Multilateral exchanges between people and countries are collapsing, and we are all now facing adverse circumstances. Humans have grown by exchanging and sharing resources and by depending upon one another. However, this threat is a huge challenge that risks blocking the way towards sustainable growth.

Under the main theme of Expo 2020 Dubai, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, the Expo should present the right direction for the new future, overcoming the current situation of mutual isolation. As “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” implies the mutual restoration of trust and the creation of a new future through the reconnection of humanity, I hope Expo 2020 Dubai will become a symbol of global integrity and retrieval by devising and sharing solutions for overcoming this global crisis.

“The Republic of Korea will provide a very meaningful opportunity to re-establish the idea of Mobility and offer creative solutions to overcome the limitations caused by Covid-19”

 

Will the theme of Expo 2020 Dubai - “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” – take on a deeper meaning in light of current issues facing the world?

Paolo Glisenti: Expo 2020 Dubai, as the first global event after Covid-19, will be an experience for the world to understand the true significance of globalisation. Will shared social, economic and cultural values be generated by connections, by the rebirth of multilateralism, and by the solidarity and cooperation in fighting economic inequalities, human injustices and unsustainable innovations? In this sense, the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” could not be more appropriate and challenging.

Expo 2020 Dubai will also set a new model for global events, one that changes and, dare I say revolutionises World Expos and all other international shows and gatherings for the time to come. How? First of all, by serving as a hybrid tech and logistic platform that allows participation in person and remotely. This could take place, for example, with the Expo site and national pavilions receiving visitors and at the same time broadcasting in real time to reach millions of people around the world in their cities, public spaces and in their homes, in classrooms and in workplaces. Secondly, themes, content and programming will enable people to be engaged together in entertaining and informative experiences. What a fantastic challenge for global events strategists and organisers! In this respect, I believe that Expo 2020 Dubai will set a historic milestone. Finally, by offering corporations and SMEs an innovative physical and digital ‘business concierge’, the Expo provides a new framework for showcasing new opportunities and building partnerships.

 

Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East. Will the event serve as a springboard for new growth in the region?

H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa: Expo 2020 Dubai will definitely serve as a springboard for new growth in the region. It is indeed the first time that an event of this magnitude is held in the Middle East, and it is a source of great pride for all of us. We hope that Expo 2020 Dubai will be a unifying opportunity for all countries in the Middle East to display the richness of our heritage, history and the potential of our future growth. In the case of Bahrain, we wish for the many visitors that will be traveling to visit the World Expo to take it as an opportunity to visit the wider region, and to discover the many archaeological and historic urban heritage sites of Bahrain, which will encourage an increase in cultural tourism to the island.

The current health crisis has brought new challenges to countries across the world. Will these challenges be addressed at Expo 2020 Dubai?

Adrian Malinowski: In light of the coronavirus pandemic, the theme of the Expo 2020 - "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" - takes on a new meaning. Declarations of solidarity, cooperation and concern for future generations are gaining new significance. We are reinforcing the mission of Expo 2020 Dubai, which is to be a platform for cooperation and an example of how much can be achieved by joining forces to face global challenges, including that of Covid-19. However, let's not forget that the Expo's goals are much broader and universal than our current challenge - we want them to remain so. When creating a story about Poland, which we will present to the world at Expo 2020 Dubai, we will focus on presenting the potential of Poles as creative, resourceful, committed, educated and ready to cooperate. It is the background of all our initiatives - from the message in the pavilion, through activities supporting the establishment of business relations, to our diplomatic and cultural programmes.

Analysing the current situation, we expect Expo 2020 Dubai to be the first truly global promotional and economic event next year. Thus, it will be a kind of new opening for the world, which will show people coming together again with direct interpersonal meetings. For our country, Poland's participation in Expo 2020 Dubai is a priority in terms of business, the economy and national branding.

“When creating a story about Poland, we will focus on presenting the potential of Poles as creative, resourceful, committed, educated and ready to cooperate”

 

When it opens in October 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai is set to be the first global gathering of its scale following the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. How will Italy make the most of this unique opportunity?

Paolo Glisenti: Italy intends to make its participation a unique visitor experience that showcases how creativity has been, over the centuries and nowadays, a multidisciplinary skill that influences innovation and sustainability in multi-sectorial supply chains, as well as in science, culture and arts. Italy’s pavilion will not function as an exhibition space but as an innovation hub of exhibits and installations made of the best materials, entirely recyclable and natural. Instead of air conditioning, seaweed will be used to breathe in the humidity and CO2 emissions. Instead of plastic or cement, walls and ceilings will be made with orange peelings and coffee beans.

“We will call our pavilion ‘Beauty connects People’, suggesting how know-how, ingenuity, and lifestyle generate the excellencies for which Italy is best known and admired”

Visitors’ emotions will be measured digitally. Students of all ages and their teachers from all over the world will be able to experience and share new educational and training activities every day. The roof of the pavilion will be made by three long hulls, the way ancient explorers of the Mediterranean Sea used their boats and turned them upside down to create their first shelters. The iconic significance of this is Italy’s history and contemporaneity based on discovery, shared experiences and inspiring minds. We will call our pavilion ‘Beauty connects People’, suggesting how know-how, ingenuity, and lifestyle generate the excellencies for which we are best known and admired. A contribution to establishing a post Covid-19 vision of the future, solidly based on memory and past experiences? We do hope so.

With the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai postponed by a year, is Poland’s participation being adapted?

Adrian Malinowski: The current situation presents us with new challenges. Our main plan, formulated in 2018, remains unchanged, however, we are taking into account the epidemiological context when working on the narrative of the pavilion, its multimedia content, as well as the economic programme and all our other areas of preparations for Expo 2020 Dubai. We will work on the internal exhibition based on the Organiser's guidelines and the sanitary safety regulations in the UAE. We will strive to preserve the advantage of universal messages about Poland, particularly strengthening the economic aspects. According to the motto of the Polish pavilion - "Poland. Creativity inspired by nature”- we want to show Poland as a country of creative and resourceful people, also in the context of our fight against the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Dozens of public and private entities are involved in preparing our country for Expo 2020. We will use the additional year to build a broader coalition and disseminate knowledge about the Expo in Poland, as well as to implement new initiatives, in particular in the field of our economic promotion and communication. We are also planning new activities to an even greater extent than previously, now based on online activities.

 

The Covid-19 pandemic has raised questions over proximity and density, issues that will be at the core of Bahrain’s pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. How do you envision density in the post-pandemic era?

H.E. Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa: This pandemic should not make us lose sight of the bigger underlying challenge of our times, which is the environmental one. The Covid-19 pandemic has indeed shed light on the challenges of proximity and distance in times of a pandemic, but it has equally shed light on our very delicate relationship to nature and wildlife, and the increasing risks related to the ever-expanding urban areas and their encroachment into formerly wild areas. The model of efficient and dense urban areas remains valid and maybe even more important in this moment. We hope that the pavilion of Bahrain at Expo 2020 Dubai will share an interesting and challenging model of dense construction and the importance of new models of efficient and innovative urban planning that promote density, innovation, and diversity.

“The pavilion of Bahrain at Expo 2020 Dubai will share an interesting and challenging model of dense construction and the importance of new models of efficient and innovative urban planning”

 

With the opening of Expo postponed by a year, how is the Republic of Korea adapting its participation?

Pyung-oh Kwon: In the midst of the current Covid-19 pandemic, humans are experiencing the limitations of Mobility. At Expo 2020 Dubai, we plan to present Mobility, one of the subthemes of the Expo, which overcomes the restraints of physics through a multidimensional network that connects time, space and all humans.

Due to Covid-19, we have experienced the massive effects stemming from the limitations of Mobility. The Republic of Korea will provide a very meaningful opportunity to re-establish the idea of Mobility and offer creative solutions to overcome the limitations caused by Covid-19, while sharing the experience and know-how on exemplary quarantine and disease control methods.

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Opinions given by external contributors do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the BIE