The countdown for the Dubai Expo 2020, which started last October, may be extended. On Monday, officials at the Expo agreed to explore postponing the long-awaited event until 2021 after considering input from other countries. The World Expo committee is set to finalise the decision, which comes as a result of the economic impacts of the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
Other major international events due to take place this year have been cancelled or postponed as well. Last week, organisers of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics announced that the sporting event will be moved to next summer. The 73rd Cannes Film Festival and the 74th annual Tony Awards, which celebrates achievements in theatre, have also been postponed until further notice.
The coming Expo is set to showcase the talent, potential and creativity that the UAE and the Middle East have to offer to the world. But it will also bring the best that the rest of the world has to offer here to the region, making it an unprecedented opportunity in the Middle East to celebrate global collaboration and our shared humanity. Even with the proposed decision to postpone the event, none of that will change.
At the same time, 2020, it is now widely accepted, will be a year of global flux. No one yet knows when the current pandemic will be fully brought under control, but even if this happens in short order, its impact on the world economy will surely last for a long time.
Delaying the Expo, along with other major international events, will afford individual visitors, organisations and whole nations the time they need for physical and financial convalescence.
Mobility, sustainability and opportunity are the three core principles of the Expo. We would do well to use the extended timeframe leading up to the event to reflect further on what these principles mean to us.
Mobility is not to be taken for granted; flights around the world are grounded and movement for a large percentage of the population suspended. Now is the time to cherish the privilege of living in an era when these constraints on our freedom to roam the planet and gather together are but temporary exceptions.
Sustainability is our means of ensuring our future; already the environmental impact of mass shutdowns is being seen in Asia, Europe and the Americas. How can we make some of those positive effects last even when our mobility continues again?
As Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, once said: “If one’s point of view is positive, the challenges of the future become opportunities.” The world is currently in a time of undeniable crisis. But if we all work together to overcome it, therein lies the opportunity.
While we stay in, and stay safe, Expo 2021 will be an event to look forward to. It will be a symbol of rebirth and solidarity, to reconvene and celebrate the world’s successful recovery from this shared ordeal. Most of all, it will be a moment to reflect on the significance of this latest challenge, to appreciate how connected we all are and to celebrate our shared potential.