“Expo 2020 Dubai was due to open its doors to millions of visitors in October 2020, however the outbreak of COVID-19 – an unforeseeable event – has significantly impacted many of Expo’s participating countries,” the vice president of communications at Expo 2020 Dubai, Mohamed AlAnsaari, admits in an exclusive conversation with Construction Week.
On 30 March, during a virtual meeting of Expo’s Steering Committee, participating countries expressed the need to postpone the event in order to overcome the unprecedented challenges posed by the global pandemic.
The UAE government and Expo 2020, in the spirit of solidarity, and to ensure the health and safety of all those involved in the preparation of this mega event, took this request forward and made a recommendation to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) Executive Committee that Expo be postponed by one year.
On 21 April, the BIE Executive Committee unanimously agreed to propose the postponement.
As any change of dates to an Expo requires the support of a two-thirds majority of the BIE Member States, the General Assembly was called upon to vote remotely on the Executive Committee’s recommendation.
AlAnsaari adds: “On 4 May, only five days after voting opened and well ahead of the 29 May deadline, the postponement recommendation surpassed the two-thirds majority.
“This is a real vote of confidence in Expo 2020, demonstrating that the entire international community remains firmly committed to staging an exceptional event that will have a real impact on a post-pandemic future, when the time is right.”
The change of dates will be formalised once voting officially ends on 29 May. However, Expo 2020 Dubai has already confirmed that it will welcome the world from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022.
Commenting on the progress of construction at the 4.38km2 Expo 2020 site, Al Ansaari says: “Construction is continuing and we are abiding by our original deadlines, working closely with all our stakeholders, including contractors, international participants and partners, to fully facilitate their needs in these unprecedented times.”
He adds: “A one-year delay presents us with an opportunity to enhance the site even further and to make sure that preparations are firmly in place ahead of the new opening date of 1 October 2021.”
“World Expos have always been true reflections of their time. With the world around us changing profoundly, we will work towards creating a vital event that will convene the global community and help shape a better world for the post-pandemic era.”
“Expo 2020 Dubai” in 2021-2022
The BIE has already agreed to maintain the name ‘Expo 2020 Dubai’ despite the change in dates.
AlAnsaari explains: “This remains the 2020 World Expo. The event has changed and moved in time, and will be different because of COVID-19, but keeping the original name will be symbolic.”
“We continue to focus on hosting an incredible World Expo that amazes, entertains and above all inspires people by showcasing the best examples of collaboration, innovation and cooperation from around the world. “
Meanwhile, the Expo 2020 Dubai site has continued to place health, safety, and welbeing at the forefront, as it prepares to host the World Expo next year.
It has undertaken a series of disinfection and precautionary measures across the site in line with the international guidance from the World Health Organisation, as well as from the UAE Ministry of Health and Prevention, and the Dubai Health Authority.
“In April, Expo 2020 opened a dedicated testing facility for workers onsite – our third onsite medical facility. Expo 2020’s on-site Emergency Aid Centre – which is open 24/7 and run by Dubai Health Authority – is running a series of health monitoring checks including temperature, pulse rate, respiratory and blood pressure to support early detection of the virus. Those presenting symptoms of COVID-19 would be referred to the Dubai Health Authority,” AlAnsaari says.
Expo 2020 Dubai has also intensified all sanitisation procedures and cleanliness guidelines.
“Our Worker Welfare and HSQE teams continue to work closely with contractors and consultants to review their preventative measures to manage and mitigate the risks of COVID-19,” he adds.
“This includes regular communications and well-being briefing sessions with all contractors and service providers to reinforce government directives, Expo’s official guidance, and precautionary measures to be implemented across the site.”
A “warm Emirati welcome” to the world
Construction Week has already spoken to a number of participants at the World Expo, all of whom have shared positive reactions to the change in dates.
AlAnsaari adds: “Given the extraordinary circumstances all around the world, the postponement of Expo was the right and responsible decision. Now, more than ever, humanity needs to come together to celebrate what unites us and generate new and exciting solutions that help us overcome challenges, like COVID-19, in the future.”
He concludes: “This remains the collective ambition of all of us involved in this Expo. We want to assure the people of Dubai, and all future Expo guests, that we are committed to putting on an extraordinary Expo and are looking forward to extending a warm Emirati welcome to the world in 2021.”