Timeframe: 10 years since the official bid for Expo 2020 Dubai

What was once no more than an idea has since turned into an entire city

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When Dubai formally launched its bid to host the "greatest show on earth" in 2012, it had already been under discussion for three years.

In June 2009, a working group was set up by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, to explore the potential of Dubai hosting Expo 2020.

Two years later, in November 2011, the UAE sent a letter to the Bureau International des Expositions in Paris, naming Dubai as a candidate city for Expo 2020. Sheikh Mohammed tweeted: “Today we launched our campaign to host the World Expo 2020 in UAE.”

It was in 2012, however, that the Higher Committee for Hosting the World Expo 2020 formed and the official bid was launched. An international campaign followed, promoting the theme Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.

It was the fifth city to bid — the others being Sao Paulo in Brazil, Ayutthaya in Thailand, Ekaterinburg in Russia and Izmir in Turkey — and followed the widespread acclaim for the UAE Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai, which won two architecture awards and attracted two million visitors.

Dubai's bid was a popular one and even garnered some leftfield celebrity endorsements, including Pamela Anderson, Lindsay Lohan and Miley Cyrus’s mother Tish.

In November that same year the bid team unveiled the masterplan for the proposed Expo site, called Dubai Trade Centre ― Jebel Ali, and the next month a 623-page dossier, setting out plans, was submitted to BIE.

There's very little downside to doing this
Rohit Talwar, chief executive, Fast Future

"Economically, it [Dubai's bid] makes incredible sense," said Rohit Talwar, the chief executive of the consultancy Fast Future, which was conducting research into the future of convention centres at the time.

"It will drive a huge amount of traffic to the country. It will benefit the airlines, it will benefit the local hotels and the economy. There's very little downside to doing this."

Thankfully, BIE clearly agreed with Mr Talwar, and a year later Dubai was named as host city for Expo 2020 at the BIE general assembly in Paris, triggering huge celebrations across the emirate.

With 10 years of hindsight, of course, we know Mr Talwar was right on all counts. Despite a one-year delay owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, a 35,000 workforce, including tens of thousands of volunteers, went on to stage the first world’s fair in the Middle East, attracting millions of visitors from all over the world, including high-profile world leaders and politicians, such as Britain's Prince William, as well as renowned celebrities such as Cristiano Ronaldo.

Scroll through the gallery below to see what celebrities and leaders had to say about Expo 2020 Dubai

Dubai was already firmly on the world's tourism map, but Expo undoubtedly cemented its reputation as a world-class destination.

Almost three months after Expo 2020 Dubai closed its successful six-month run, its transformation into Expo City Dubai was announced. The legacy city will offer visitors a “world-class experience” including access to pavilions with new offerings, a museum and leisure facilities, not to mention that many of the world fair's most popular attractions will still be available, including Al Wasl Dome and the striking water feature.

The 4.38-square-kilometre site will cater to visitors as well as residents of the 2,000 apartments. There are plans to expand these neighbourhoods to help the legacy site fully transform into a thriving community, made up of tenants, homeowners, businesses and attractions.

It may have started as a mere bid 10 years ago, but there is plenty of mileage in the Expo journey yet.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid unveils Expo City Dubai — in pictures

Updated: June 24, 2022, 6:01 PM