LIVE BLOG: Full coverage of Expo 2020 Dubai
It is here at last. The greatest show on Earth has arrived in town with the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai.
The months of waiting and the one-year delay caused by the global pandemic were swept away in a spectacular opening ceremony that was shown live at 430 locations across the UAE and on screens in New York's Times Square.
The breathtaking show culminated in a firework display to match the “big bang” promised by organisers to launch the next 182 days.
As darkness fell on Al Wasl Plaza, the 67-metre dome inspired by the shape of the official Expo logo, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai saw his dream became a reality.
It is nearly eight years since Dubai was awarded the right to host the 2020 world's fair, brought to life on a site that is now a city within a city, and reportedly bigger than Monaco.
Sheikh Mohammed was joined by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces.
They watched as the evening began with a performance of the UAE national anthem performed by Emirati singer and actor Rashed Al Nuaimi, followed by fireworks in red, green and white to reflect the country’s flag.
UAE superstar Hussain Al Jassmi then took the stage for the opening sequence based on the story of the Expo 2020 Dubai logo and set on an undulating sand dune, as an Emirati girl is empowered by the spirit of expo and the discovery of a golden ring connecting the past to the present.
Next came the entry of the flags of the UAE, Expo 2020 Dubai and the BIE, the organising world body, after which the flags of all 192 nations taking part were revealed to a performance by the Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo and Saudi singer Mohammed Abdu.
For the formal opening ceremony, Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Expo 2020 Dubai Commissioner General and Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, told the audience: “By hosting Expo 2020 Dubai, we aim to convey a message of tolerance and that we are willing to co0-operate with all of the world. By connecting minds, we hope to sow the seeds of progress for the next 50 or even 100 years.
“Today we say to the whole world, welcome to the United Arab Emirates and welcome to Expo 2020 Dubai, which will provide a significant platform for all people to connect, discuss and work together.”
Declaring the opening, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, offered a prayer, saying: “Today we witness, together, a new beginning, as we inaugurate, with the blessings of Allah, Expo 2020. May God grant us success.”
Jaw-dropping special effects
An international cast of more than 900 performers had been assembled for show that followed. There were Emiratis and others representing 64 countries, all already living and working in the UAE.
With the world’s biggest sound system and 152 projectors assembled inside the Al Wasl dome, the event featured jaw-dropping special effects. They began by depicting the birth of the planet in a glowing orb of fire. It then evolved into the blue and white globe of Earth and finally a shimmering pearl that descended under the sea.
Each segment featured an internationally famous artist, beginning with the Chinese concert pianist Lang Lang.
An underwater sequence filled with brilliant tropical fish, turtles and, finally, a giant whale represented living in harmony with nature and sustaining life, one of the themes of Expo 2020 Dubai.
It was followed by the award-winning singer Ellie Goulding and the song Anything Could Happen as clouds filled the dome.
Then came a performance by Golden Globe winning performer Andra Day, as cast members assembled into a caravan of humanity, representing the potential to create a better tomorrow.
In the show’s final act, the dome and plaza were transformed into a magical garden with dancers in fantastical costumes representing blossoming flowers. There was a huge silver and white ghaf tree, the native symbol of the UAE, along with the voice live on stage of the world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli and a prayer in song: “When shadows fill our day, lead us to a place.”
A final firework display - the last and most spectacular of three during the performance - burst in the skies over the site, signalling not the end of the evening but the beginning of six months that unites the world in Dubai.