Expo 2020 Dubai has raised the bar for world's fairs, says BIE general secretary

Dimitri Kerkentzes said Dubai event showcased some technical innovations that will become commonplace in the near future

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Expo 2020 Dubai has raised the standard for future world's fairs, the head of the organisation governing the international events has said.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of Bureau International des Expositions, said Expo 2020 will be an event that future organisers "will look to aspire to".

Despite being postponed by a year due to Covid-19, and grappling with international travel restrictions and other hurdles during its six-month run, Expo 2020 is set to hit its pre-pandemic target of 25 million visits following a surge in numbers during the final 50 days.

"Every Expo tries to set — to raise — the bar every time. But I have to be honest here, we had an Expo that went through some very unexpected moments, and of course Covid-19 hit," said Mr Kerkentzes.

The world's fair hosted more than 30,000 events across 96 locations on the Dubai South site.

Subjects including climate change, inclusion, food and agriculture and water have drawn more than 14,000 speakers, including world leaders and activists, who delivered ideas to protect precious resources.

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"It’s clear that we have set a new bar here – it’s something I believe [Expo 2025 Osaka] will look to aspire to
Dimitri Kerkentzes, BIE

Royalty and celebrities also joined in the show, including Britain's Prince William, football stars Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, and artists Coldplay and Andrea Bocelli.

With the curtain set to come down on the 'greatest show' on Thursday and global pop star Christina Aguilera performing in the closing ceremony at Al Wasl Plaza, thoughts turn to the legacy of the event in Dubai and how it compares to other expos.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions, said more countries in the Middle East and Africa are inquiring about hosting the world's fair.  Expo 2020 Dubai

"It’s clear that we have set a new bar here — it’s something I believe [Expo 2025 Osaka] will look to aspire to," said Mr Kerkentzes.

"Every Expo is different, but you have to think of what has been achieved here. This is something that we will think about for many, many years to come — to have some kind of strong impact on the future.

"And I think this legacy will be seen in Osaka and whomever comes next. So, it’s an incredible way to finish off this Expo — how successful it has been."

Innovations to stay

Early expos, particularly during the industrial age, were about countries showing their latest innovations.

Expo 2020 has introduced several innovations, including the spectacular Al Wasl Dome, the gravity-defying waterfall, the world's largest passenger lift in Alif, the mobility pavilion, the net-zero rainforest in the Singapore pavilion and the friendly orange robots called Opti.

Mr Kerkentzes said while modern-day expos have evolved to becoming much more human focused and "looking at what was important for humanity", he said Dubai both corralled nations together and showed some new products that will become commonplace in the near future.

"What’s wonderful about this expo, they’re not innovations or concepts that the world will never ever see," he said.

"A lot of people and companies have a tendency to say ‘here’s a concept’, but it never comes to life.

"What I feel that we see here are things that probably in around five years will actually be impacting our daily lives. And that is one of the powers that we’ve seen [at Expo 2020 Dubai]."

Expo 2020 was the first time a world's fair had a policy of ‘One Nation, One Pavilion’, allowing every country to be represented in Dubai.

Mr Kerkentzes said he has managed to visit every pavilion at Expo and believes the event has generated plenty of interest from countries around the world to host their own expos.

Saudi Arabia has already launched a bid to host the world's fair in 2030. Riyadh is one of five cities to submit an application to host the event, alongside Rome, Moscow, Ukraine’s port city Odessa and South Korea’s coastal city Busan.

"This is going to start spurring on a lot of interest in the region and all around Africa as well," said Mr Kerkentzes.

"I’ve seen a lot of interest in how can we start moving this type of event to new parts the world. So I’m really looking forward to the next five to 10 years to see what impact this has on our future candidatures that come forward."

Children enjoying Expo 2020 Dubai — in pictures

Updated: March 31, 2022, 4:13 AM
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