5 things you should know about Expo 2020
A brief guide explaining what all the fuss is about
When it was announced that Dubai had won the bid to host Expo 2020, there was a massive hullaballoo: fireworks were set off from Burj Khalifa, a school holiday was announced, and a logo competition for the Expo’s branding drew over 18,000 submissions. There’s a lot of talk about Expo 2020, but if you happen to be a little clueless about the whole thing (we were, until we wrote this post), here’s a breakdown of why it's such a big deal.
1. What exactly is an expo?
An expo is a large international exhibition of the industrial, scientific, technological, and artistic achievements of the participating nations, held in varying parts of the world. There are lots of pavilions to walk around, presentations to watch and cultural events to attend. The practice is rooted in the French tradition of national expositions, where various regions in France would show off advancements made in agriculture and industry. But you can blame the Brits for taking this whole thing global, with the immensely successful World's Fair of 1851, held in a structure called the Crystal Palace at Hyde Park. Following that, the international community just couldn’t get enough. Major expos, like the one making its way over here in 2020, are held once every five years and are meant to last up to a maximum of six months – Expo 2020 will run from October 2020 to April 2021. Mini expos are held in 'off years' and typically last up to a maximum of three months.
Not so fun fact: the World’s Columbian Exposition, held in Chicago in 1893, was marred by the activities of one Dr. H. H. Holmes, a serial killer who lured victims to an elaborately constructed 'Murder Castle' where, well, he murdered them. If a gruesome tale like that appeals to you, you can read all about it in 'The Devil in the White City' by Erik Larson.
2. The whole bidding thing
To be awarded the right to hold a major expo, each city has to propose a wide universal theme that applies to the whole of humanity. Dubai, whose theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ went up against Izmir’s ‘New Routes to a Better World/Health for All’; Yekaterinburg's (that’s in Russia) ‘The Global Mind’ and Sāo Paolo’s ‘Power of Diversity, Harmony for Growth’. The Bureau of International Expositions decided that Dubai’s proposal was the most awesome and so here we are today. Incidentally, Dubai will be the first place in the combined region of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia to host an expo, which is quite the honour.
3. What does ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ actually mean?
It sounds a bit fuzzy to us, but according to Expo 2020’s official website, ‘the overall theme recognises that generating sustainable solutions to global problems demands collaboration across cultures and regions’ – that’s the ‘connecting minds’ bit. We think the whole ‘creating the future’ thing is explored through the Expo’s sub-themes of 'opportunity', which means ‘unlocking new possibilities for people and communities to become successful contributors to the future’; 'mobility' which is all about ‘creating smarter and more productive physical and virtual connections’ between people, communities and countries; and 'sustainability', the pursuit of ‘progress without compromising the needs of future generations’.
What the presentations of the various country participants will actually look like, we have no idea, but we’re sure the content will be pretty cool.
4. Some quick facts and figures
* Expo 2020 coincides with the Emirate’s Golden Jubilee Celebration. It’ll be a wonderful way to celebrate Dubai’s 50th birthday.
* The Expo will be held on a 438-hectare site located next to the Al Maktoum International Airport near Jebel Ali. The Expo site is pretty much equidistant from Dubai and Abu Dhabi, so three airports are available to receive visitors from overseas.
* Speaking of visitors, it’s estimated that 25 million visitors will flock to the expo, some 70% of which will be coming from overseas.
* Speaking of overseas visitors again, Dubai’s hospitality industry is expected to increase the number of hotel rooms in the Emirate from 65,000 to 100,000, with older hotels making a mad dash to refurbish their accommodation.
* There’s also been a boom in mega-development projects housing tourist attractions, retail space, and residential space. The run-up to Expo 2020 is estimated to create about 277,000 new jobs with a reported investment of 25 billion dirhams in infrastructure related projects. These include plans to extend the Dubai Metro Red Line all the way to the expo site. There's also plans to add a drainage system over there, so visitors don't have to use porta-potties.
5. What happens after Expo 2020?
While we can’t predict the future, there are two schools of thought on the matter: cynics who think that the end result of this madcap investment will lead to a glut of property on the market and in turn a real estate bubble; and optimists foresee that the aftermath of the expo will be a continued boom for Dubai’s tourism, which will lead to greater foreign investment.
But we’re not economists, so let's not speculate about that...
What we have heard about the site itself, is that, since sustainability is one of the focal points of the expo, segments of the site’s modular design will be repurposed into different structures, with the main pavilion serving as the new Dubai Trade Centre (not to be confused with the Dubai World Trade Centre right off of SZR).