The legacy of Expo 2020 Dubai will define the UAE

The event might have come to a close, but its ideas will live on

Visitors at the water feature on the last day of Expo 2020 Dubai. The National
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Between 7pm yesterday and 3am today, organisers at Dubai Expo 2020 had the difficult task of closing one of the most impressive and prestigious events on the global calendar.

The fanfare was so great that 20 screens were needed throughout the site to give attendees a full picture of the ceremonies, which included music, speeches and a massive fireworks display. Another important part was the handover ceremony to Japan, where the next Expo will be held in Osaka in 2025. It is a reminder that while this one might be over, the event’s wider legacy is not. Millions of people will now have cherished memories of their visit, be it every school child in the Emirates or the very many foreign visitors who were often getting their first experience not just of the UAE, but of the wider Middle East.

And while all Expos are memorable, this one will go down for being one of the busiest and most exceptional on record. For the first time in the event's history, all of the 192 participating countries had their own pavilions. The scale means the majority of visitors, even the most committed ones, did not have the chance to visit every country and thematic pavilion. Faris Aziz Ahmad, 48, was one of the few attendees lucky enough to fill all the pages in his Expo passport, after making more than 70 separate visits. Mr Ahmad said: “Expo gives me information. It gives me more power to look to the future, makes me strong, give me more ideas. I find something new each time.”

Impressive as this was, you did not have to be as committed as Mr Ahmad to benefit in this manner. Even the most cursory of visitors will have got a sense of the three themes underpinning the event, which were present at every turn: sustainability, mobility and opportunity, all coming together to "Connect Minds and Create the Future".

At the Sustainability Pavilion, visitors got to "explore humankind’s relationship with nature and our obsession with excessive consumerism", and how we can manage the two to ease the climate crisis. There was a particular focus on the promise of solar energy and the need to use water efficiently, both topics on which the GCC has much to contribute. At the Mobility Pavilion, visitors saw how movement has driven mankind's progress, and where modern forms of it are set to take us, with a particular focus on smart cities, a subject the UAE will be driving in upcoming years. And at the Opportunity Pavilion, the goal was to build global connections and inspiration in a world where future challenges can seem overwhelming.

The UAE is now part of a small, prestigious band of countries to have held an Expo. But there is one achievement that no other host in the history of Expo can lay claim to: keeping it alive through unprecedented obstacles and health risks as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The very name of the event, which remained Expo 2020 even though it actually happened a year later, will serve as a permanent reminder of all that was done to keep the show on the road.

Published: April 01, 2022, 3:00 AM
Updated: April 05, 2022, 9:35 AM