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Monday, January 25, 2021

We did it!

by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor

© Al Habtoor Group
© Al Habtoor Group, Al Habtoor Group employees celebrate UAE National Day at the Group Head Office

Once again, the UAE celebrates another historical first. Dubai has beaten back bids from three contenders – Ekaterinburg, Russia; Izmir, Turkey and Sao Paulo, Brazil – to host Expo 2020, the greatest World Fair on earth on the eve of the UAE’s 50th National Day. This will be the first ever Expo to be held in the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) area and the fact that Dubai was selected is a source of pride not only for the people of the UAE and GCC States, but also for the entire Arab World. Dubai never does anything by halves so exhibitors and visitors should anticipate a spectacular event in a vibrant futuristic metropolis that never ceases to break through glass ceilings and surpass all expectations.

Dubai’s winning theme is “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” which focuses on Opportunity (New paths to Economic Development), Mobility (New systems of Logistics and Transportation) and Sustainability (Intelligent Sources of Energy and Water). Its expected legacy will be innovation, economic opportunity, increased cultural awareness – and the creation of 270,000 new jobs in Dubai, benefitting Emiratis and expatriates alike.

The driving force behind Dubai’s never-ending thrust towards excellence is the extraordinary vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Like his father, Sheikh Rashid, he’s always dreamt big dreams for the emirate he loves and inevitably translates those dreams into reality. Sheikh Mohammed’s well laid out plan for Expo 2020 is just one chapter in his roadmap for the future of our emirate that is already an acclaimed world capital for investment, tourism, economy and hospitality. Kudos must also go to the various government bodies that have played a huge role in bringing Expo 2020 to the UAE by coordinating and unifying their efforts to showcase Dubai’s unique gifts to decision-makers at the Bureau of International Expositions in Paris.

Over these past weeks when Dubai was abuzz with ‘will we or won’t we’ speculation, I had few doubts about our ultimate success – and neither did Georgi Kantchev, who wrote an article in the New York Times tapping Dubai as the frontrunner, because it offered “the most financial and governmental support” while “political tensions” in Russia and Turkey were likely to dash their hopes.

From my perspective, it was almost a non-contest when Dubai has an amazing track record of hosting world class exhibitions attracting millions of international visitors, such as the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, the Global Village, the Gulf Film Festival, the Arabian Travel Market, GITEX, the Dubai International Motor Show, the world richest horserace - the Dubai World Cup, and of course, the bi-annual Dubai Air Show. Dubai is now a byword for the finest hospitality, thanks to its unbeatable infrastructure, ease of transport, top rated hotels, restaurants, shopping, sports and entertainment.

Scheduled to run during the cooler season - from October 20, 2020 until April 10, 2021 – Expo 2020, to be sited on 438 hectares at the World Trade Centre – Jebel Ali, will be an opportunity for the estimated 25 million participants/ visitors to enjoy every aspect of this great multi-cultural city when the mercury dips to its lowest levels. More importantly, the UAE is one of the world’s safest places enjoying political stability and low crime rates.

Expo 2020 will not put Dubai on the map – it already looms large as a business, tourism and shopping destination. Dubai has proven its worth over and over again and will keep on growing. But winning such a prestigious exposition is a global affirmation that we’re on a fast track to greater heights and are more than capable of seamlessly organising this mega event and of hosting millions of attendees in first class style.

I’m convinced that Expo 2020 will go down in the history books as a milestone. The first ever – “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations” - was held in London in 1981 to display the achievements of the Industrial Revolution. The 1900 Exposition Universal in Paris “Evaluation of a Century” highlighted new technologies including escalators, diesel engines, talking movies, Ferris wheels and the Eiffel Tower, attracting over 48 million visitors. The World Expo held in Chicago in 1933 was a catalyst for the city’s transformation into one of America’s most important. Expo 2000 hosted by the German city of Hanover was a boom for the country, creating 100,000 jobs and boosting investments. Italy is set to be the host nation for Expo 2015 scheduled to take place in Milan from May 1 to October 31 at which Dubai will erect one of the largest pavilions designed to represent desert dunes.

There is much work ahead but failure doesn’t exist in the UAE’s lexicon where coming second best is not an option. Young Ali, an Emirati boy whose grandfather was a pearl diver, says it best in a short clip produced to promote Dubai’s bid, “Dubai is a place that is clean, healthy and fun – a perfect place to bring together the world’s best brains. Expos introduce incredible things to the world. It’s the UAE’s turn to amaze the world. People from 200 nationalities live here. Over 15 million came through Dubai last year and we know how to welcome them. We connect with the world. Dubai will stage an Expo the world will never forget.” And so we will!

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