PARIS // Princess Haya bint Al Hussein stole the show yesterday when she stepped on stage as the surprise presenter of a key speech supporting Dubai’s bid to host Expo 2020.
The wife of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, set out a vision of a World Expo built on the power of partnerships.
Speaking fluently in French and English, she charmed and impressed the large audience in Paris and delivered an eloquent case for Dubai’s plans.
Princess Haya was speaking at the general assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions, which oversees world fairs.
Dubai and the other three remaining candidate cities had only 30 minutes each to outline their plans.
Watching from the front row was Sheikh Mohammed, who is on a three-day official visit to the French capital.
“The World Expo organisation was born from the desire for partnership,” Princess Haya said. “And it is from this spirit of partnership that Expo draws its greatest strength.
“The true legacy of an Expo is not in its physical buildings or monuments but in the connections it makes and the people it inspires and the future it builds.
"World Expos have a remarkable ability to bring people together to discuss, engage and innovate. The theme of Dubai Expo 2020, 'Connecting minds, creating the future', is just such a pledge of partnership.
“It draws on the UAE’s past, our heritage and our successes. It highlights the fact that we are all united in destiny and outcome.”
Since the earliest days of the UAE, Princess Haya said, the country had invited the world to help to create its future.
“Together we have delivered some amazing and ground-breaking achievements, achievements that have brought opportunities and benefits for all who have joined us.
“In Dubai we have built a city that has become an incubator for new models and new ideas.”
A video gave the Dubai International Financial Centre as an example of an initiative that thrived on collaboration and partnerships. Delegates were told that the centre attracted businesses from around the world to interact with one another and added more than US$3 billion to Dubai’s economic value.
The day’s presentations were seen as vital because many of the delegates who will eventually choose the winner are likely to make up their minds based on what they heard yesterday.
Sheikh Mohammed was accompanied by a high-powered delegation including Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
Also present was the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo in Dubai, led by its chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority and chairman of Emirates.
Sheikh Ahmed said he was grateful to Sheikh Mohammed for attending. "This reflects the support there is for Expo," he said.
Princess Haya was introduced by Minister of State Reem Al Hashimy, the committee's managing director, who also emphasised the importance of partnerships.
She told delegates: “If you take this path with us these partnerships will be both the foundations and the legacy of Dubai Expo 2020.”
Princess Haya’s participation was a closely guarded secret until the moment she stood up. Afterwards, Vicente Gonzalez Loscertales, secretary general of the BIE, said he had been impressed.
“Princess Haya’s performance was outstanding,” he said. “We were first surprised and then delighted and very honoured to have her with us here.
“She has expressed very well the values and the culture of Dubai. She’s magnificent, she did a wonderful presentation.”
Bridget Gee, a delegate from New Zealand, said: “Princess Haya is very elegant and spoke very well, and it was impressive to see that she spoke both French and English. I thought her performance was very advantageous for the UAE.”