World Expo in Dubai: The planet’s first major ‘post-Covid event’?

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FILED - Dubai has been growing and growing for years and the city is to stage another gigantic spectacle this year with the World Expo. Photo: Detlef Berg/dpa
FILED - Dubai has been growing and growing for years and the city is to stage another gigantic spectacle this year with the World Expo. Photo: Detlef Berg/dpa

(dpa) – In the heat of the desert, it looks like someone has forgotten to take down a bunch of signs saying “Expo 2020.”

It’s almost like Dubai is waiting for a future that has already been and gone. But all eyes are on the months ahead. The name of the world’s fair, postponed for a year because of the pandemic, has remained the same.

It’s now taking place from October 1 2021 to March 31 2022, with the motto “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”. The main site is in the south-western part of the metropolis on the Persian Gulf, far away from the centre and its famous skyline. The three key themes are sustainability, mobility and opportunity, each with its own pavilion.

A mega-event in the middle of a pandemic

Work is currently being carried out on Dubai’s largest construction site as if there were no tomorrow – and no today. Completely detached from the global pandemic, it’s a bit like being in a bubble.

The national pavilions are taking shape, and cranes move about against the blue sky. But is it realistic for the mega event to take place, given the circumstances?

After all, the organisers are sticking to their target of 25 million visits, over 60 live acts each day, parades and a range of gastronomic venues.

Camille Renaudin from the PR team confirms that none of the 190 participating countries has withdrawn so far. She suggests that the world expo might even turn out to be the “first major post-Covid event”. What is certain is that the remaining months play into the hands of the organisers.

Dubai continues to attract tourists during pandemic

In times like these, October feels so long away. In addition, tourism, which has long since picked up in Dubai, could be seen as a continuous field test in dealing with the pandemic.

FILED - The central Al Wasl Dome - seen here as a model - will be a highlight of the World Expo. Photo: Andreas Drouve/dpa
FILED – The central Al Wasl Dome – seen here as a model – will be a highlight of the World Expo. Photo: Andreas Drouve/dpa
Imagine a scenario in which the Expo takes place but nobody goes: It’s unlikely to happen, despite the United Arab Emirates still being classified as a high incidence region.

Nevertheless, there are currently a number of flights to the UAE, as well as tourists who don’t mind going. Museums and shopping malls are open, hotels and restaurants are surprisingly busy. Social distancing measures seem to be largely in place, and face coverings are compulsory everywhere.

Dubai is known for attention to detail and efficiency – and armies of foreign labourers who do the back-breaking work in the emirate. It’s no different when it comes to the German Pavilion at the World Expo.

Planning continues – at a safe distance

Nothing seems to be able to slow down the first world expo in the Arab world. For future guests, markings on the floor and on benches remind them of the minimum distance of two metres. Hand gel dispensers are ready and waiting under solar panels. Flowers have been planted, and trees and floating canopies provide shade.

Highlights include the gigantic shape of the central Al Wasl Dome and the pavilion of the host country, the work of Spanish starchitect Santiago Calatrava. The pavilion on the theme of sustainability is almost finished, which is perhaps a contradiction in terms on a site artificially carved out of the desert.

The additional costs associated with postponing the original date of Expo 2020 are discreetly not mentioned. The main thing is that the whole show finally gets underway in October.

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