Expo 2020 Dubai: Meet the superfan who has been to six world expos

Cesar Corona's jobs at Expo 1998 Lisbon and Expo 2000 Hanover changed his life

Meet the Expo fan whose life has been changed by world fairs

Meet the Expo fan whose life has been changed by world fairs
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Expos are designed to bring the world together in one place, build bridges, forge connections and allow ideas to be shared. For some people, the experience can be life-changing.

Cesar Corona was studying electronics engineering at a university in Mexico City when he applied for a summer job at a Mexican restaurant at Expo 1998 Lisbon after reading a leaflet about the event.

I saw so many different cultures, built good relations with people from around the world and it convinced me that I like international affairs
Cesar Corona, Expo Museum

“It piqued my interest because Expo 1992 Seville was very important in Mexico City, as Mexico had a very interesting pavilion there, and it was widely covered in the media,” he told The National.

Mr Corona, a Mexican-American, got the job and spent five months working at the world's fair. His experience in Portugal was life-changing.

The role opened his eyes to the value of expos and he was moved by the world's fair capacity to educate and inspire people to see beyond everyday life.

His interest in expos turned into a passion, and within months he started studying German in preparation for the next world's fair, Expo 2000 Hanover, where was hired to work at the Mexico pavilion.

“I saw so many different cultures, built good relations with people from around the world and it convinced me that I like international affairs," said Mr Corona, 47.

After his experience in Hanover, he quit engineering and began researching world expos, pursuing a bachelor's degree in international relations and a master's degree in public diplomacy.

That was followed by an internship with the Bureau International des Expositions, which organises world expos.

Three more expos

Cesar Corona has collected several souvenirs from expos over the years. Antonie Robertson / The National

Over the years, the Los Angeles resident attended three more expos: Expo 2010 Shanghai, Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea and Expo 2015 Milan.

He also started running the ExpoMuseum, an online resource dedicated to spreading awareness about world expos. The website was founded by world's fair historian Urso Chappell in 1998.

Mr Corona collects hundreds of items of expo memorabilia, from T-shirts to posters, badges and expo passports, including one from Expo 2010 Shanghai and another from Expo 2012 Yeosu Korea.

“These passports will tell you very different stories," said Mr Corona.

"The one from Shanghai is nearly empty as there were very long queues for passport stamping, whereas the one from Yeosu has most pages filled as I was working with the Bureau International des Expositions at that time and could easily get stamps.

"This T-shirt is one of my most precious treasures as it symbolises my introduction to world expos. It is from Expo 1998 Lisbon and it has stamps from all the participating countries.”

A trip to Dubai

Cesar Corona, an expo enthusiast, explores the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai. Antonie Robertson / The National

Last week, he travelled to the UAE to attend Expo 2020 Dubai – his first trip to the Middle East – and he said he was impressed with what he saw.

“I think something that makes the Dubai Expo very progressive in the history of world expos is that there's a plan to make this a smart city, and you can already see the urban design," he said.

"Another thing I loved is that there are no joint pavilions here. Each country has its own space. It doesn't matter if their economy is struggling, or if their size is small.

“The third thing that is also new for me is the monument for Expo workers. It’s a very beautiful way to acknowledge all the work that went into making this. It’s going to remain here as part of the legacy.

"If I had worked at the Expo, I would love to come here in 10 years and show my children my name. It’s like I'm part of this already."

Mr Corona said he planned to spend every day at the Expo speaking to staff and volunteers, taking pictures, exploring one pavilion after another, and sharing a laugh with visitors and families.

Along with his yellow Expo passport, Mr Corona also carried a Dubai Expo map.

"It is part of my tradition to collect stamps on maps or posters, because I want to frame and showcase them in my office. Passports are great but I can’t frame them," he said.

So far, Mr Corona's passport from Expo 2020 Dubai has two stamps, from the Mexico and US pavilions, but he said he was confident he would fill the pages during his two-week trip.

In the meantime, he is on a mission to learn more about the UAE and the Gulf.

“It's impossible to think that in the two weeks that I'm going to spend here I can understand the country and the region, but I can say the flame has been ignited inside me," he said.

Meet the pin-collecting Expo super fan

Meet the Expo super fan collecting pavilion pin badges in Dubai

Meet the Expo super fan collecting pavilion pin badges in Dubai
Updated: November 09, 2021, 5:20 AM