Bid for Expo 2020 hots up for UAE after Thailand drops out of race

The remaining cities contending to host the Expo 2020 are Dubai, along with Sao Paulo in Brazil, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Izmir in Turkey.

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PARIS // The elimination of Thailand from the race to host Expo 2020 is likely to make the competition between the remaining four candidate cities even more intense, the head of the BIE said yesterday.

General assembly delegates decided on Tuesday that the bid by the city of Ayutthaya did not meet the requirements for staging a World Expo. That left Dubai plus Sao Paulo in Brazil, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Izmir in Turkey.

Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, secretary general of the BIE, confirmed the Thai bid had been dropped because it failed to meet the requirements set out in the BIE's rules.

"It's going to get tougher because there are four strong candidates and every one of them will want to get the votes that in principle were going to go to Thailand," he said.

Mr Loscertales said all four presentations had been well executed.

"In some cases they stressed their economic capacity and inner values, in other cases it was more cultural, in other cases they put the stress on diversity.

"But in all of them there was a sort of line of cooperation, of innovation and openness."

Princess Haya's speech, the second of the day, came after a rather difficult presentation by the bid team from Izmir. The city has been affected by the wave of unrest in Turkey, and the delegation had to present a positive face just as their government was cracking down on the protesters.

However, Mr Loscertales felt the violence would not affect Turkey's chances in the Expo race.

"This is just a juncture, it's now, and it's a temporary thing," he added. "Turkey's a democratic country, it will have elections and I don't see any problems."

The UAE was not the only country that had top-level supporters at the assembly - the Russian deputy prime minister Arkady Dvorkovich was there to bang the drum for Yekaterinburg, while Brazil sent its vice president Michel Temer.

"We had delegations from the highest level of every country and the presentations were very intelligently done," Mr Loscertales said.

Turkey went down a different route - instead of a top leader, the star of the Izmir stand at the assembly venue was the bid's Expoman mascot. There were rumours that beneath Expoman's costume was a woman.

Russia pulled off a coup at the end of its presentation, the last one of the day, by showing a video of a cosmonaut extolling the qualities of Yekaterinburg while orbiting Earth in the International Space Station.

The two-day assembly ended yesterday, but delegates are to gather again in Paris in November, when the final vote will be taken to determine which of the four cities will have the honour of staging Expo 2020.