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World Expo could be game-changer

If Dubai wins the honour to host World Expo 2020, it has every chance to be a fit successor to the best expos of the past.

Paris's Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognisable structures in the world and a cultural icon for France, was commissioned as the entrance archway to the Paris Universal Exposition in 1889. The 1893 World Fair in Chicago marked the coming out party for the now ubiquitous Ferris wheel. And in 1962, Seattle's exhibition christened the Space Needle, one of the Pacific Northwest's more striking towers and tallest structures.

When the world gathers to communicate and share experiences, as it has twice a decade since the Universal Exposition in London in 1851, history is made. Now it could be Dubai's turn to leave its mark.

Some of the world's greatest cities, including New York, Vancouver, Paris and Brussels, have hosted world fairs. The next expo will be held in Milan in 2015. But the host city for World Expo 2020 hasn't been chosen; Dubai is among the five finalists.

Dubai and the UAE face stiff competition. The other cities in the running for the 2020 expo are Ayutthaya, Thailand; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Yekaterinburg, Russia; and Izmir, Turkey. All of these cities have their own merits and ambitions.

As The National reported yesterday, an inspection team from the Bureau International des Expositions, which supervises the events, has arrived in Dubai to carry out a four-day evaluation of plans here. The blueprint they will examine, "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future", outlines a fair focused on three main themes: sustainability, mobility and opportunity.

The UAE is optimistic about becoming the first country in the region to host a world's fair, as it should be. Opportunity, one of the themes behind the Dubai plan, is a defining characteristic of living here. Among the fastest-growing countries in the world, with a strategic location, an open economy, safety and diversity, the UAE is home to over 200 nationalities and it is considered to be one of the world's most connected countries.

Unlike the Olympics, which can be a drain on the local economy once the athletes go home, world fairs often leave a lasting legacy.

No matter which city wins the right to host, flexibility will be required; more than a showcase of a single place, expos are meant to showcase the world. But if Dubai does win the honour to host, World Expo 2020 has every chance to be a fit successor to the best expos of the past.

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