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Dubai is getting ready to host an estimated 25 million visitors for Expo 2020 Dubai. Recently, on 20 October, the entire United Arab Emirates (UAE) celebrated the one-year countdown to the Middle East’s first-ever World Expo.
The one year to go Expo 2020 launch event was held mainly at the Burj Park in the heart of downtown Dubai - home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountains and the Dubai Opera. It was a star-studded event, with live performances from Mariah Carey and Emirati singer Hussain Al Jassmi. So popular in fact that the 7,500 tickets to the event reportedly “sold out within seconds.”
The rest of the UAE’s six other Emirates – Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah – also celebrated the one year to go Expo 2020 launch event with live broadcasts from Dubai and with their own performances and live entertainment.
Being a fairly new resident to Dubai myself, it was exciting on a personal level to have the countdown celebrations celebrated not just in Dubai but also specifically in downtown, which coincidentally is the area I live in now. For those who have been in Dubai much longer than myself – both expats and especially Emiratis – it was an exciting time to realise that after years of hard work and preparation for the World Expo, the event is suddenly fast approaching.
Dubai is expanding its infrastructure, a huge part of which is to prepare for the anticipated number of visitors. And for residents and visitors alike, seeing so much construction either being completed or about to be finished in time for the Expo is exciting. For instance, the Dubai metro is expanding with a 15km extension called Route 2020, set to be complete next year in time for the Expo. Additionally, tourist destinations in Dubai such as the world’s tallest Ferris Wheel, the Ain Dubai, are planned to be completed before the Expo begins next year.
Public engagement is increasing as Expo 2020 fast approaches. For instance, this summer, UAE residents had a limited time offer to go on free bus tours of the Expo 2020 site. There is also a programme to recruit 30,000 volunteers for the event, with 100,000 expression of interest already received.
Much of Dubai’s theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability is coming alive before Expo 2020 even begins. For example, during the countdown event, organisers did not offer single-use plastic water bottles but instead provided visitors with free drinking water and 98 per cent biodegradable and compostable paper water bottles. This initiative was said to have saved more than 100,000 plastic water bottles across all events and part of the wider “Be Water Wise Campaign,” which is a collaboration between the UAE Water Aid Foundation and Expo 2020.
Finally, it is not just residents of the UAE, but people from all over the world who have an opportunity to begin participating. For instance, the Expo Live initiative, which, according to the Expo 2020 website, “accelerates and promotes creative solutions that improve lives while preserving our world”. With an allocation of USD 100 million, Expo Live aims to drive innovation by bringing people together from around the world through a combination of grants, prizes and knowledge-sharing events based around the subthemes. The Expo Live’s Innovative Impact Grant Programme has received nearly 7,000 applicants from 174 countries.
As Dubai and the rest of the UAE begin the one-year countdown to Expo 2020, the rest of the world is joining in the excitement and aspirations of Dubai. Both residents and Emiratis are really excited and looking forward to welcoming the rest of the world next year – including myself, who now calls Dubai home.
Richie Santosdiaz is a UAE-based economic development advisor with a professional focus and personal passion for internationalisation and wider topics around international business.