Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 15 November 2019

Dubai provides answers to the expo legacy conundrum

Expo 2020 will inspire visitors and provide a lasting legacy for the city

The legacy of Expo 2020 will be both infrastructural and soft. Expo 2020
The legacy of Expo 2020 will be both infrastructural and soft. Expo 2020

When the Expo 2017 site closed yesterday in Astana, the baton was firmly passed to Dubai, the host city for the next world’s fair, Expo 2020.

As The National reported, Expo 2017 was Kazhakstan’s opportunity to promote itself to the international community, albeit through what the Bureau International des Expositions refers to as a “specialised expo” rather than the more global affair that will open its doors in Dubai in three years time.

Two questions tend to get asked about any expo: the first about why, more than 160 years since the first event was staged in London, they still matter? The second is how any city, be it Shanghai, Milan or Dubai, can ensure the exhibition site does not become an unused facility after the event ends?


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Dubai has emphatically answered both questions. Expo matters because of the promise it provides to inspire visitors. Microsoft chairman Bill Gates has talked previously about the profound impact the staging of the 1962 Expo in Seattle, his home town, had upon him when he was growing up. If the 2020 event can spur even a few young minds to greater enquiry and achievement it will have fulfilled its purpose.

At Cityscape Global this week, further details of the legacy element of Expo 2020 will be unveiled. From the outset, Dubai has been focused on putting on a great show and ensuring the long-term future of the site. The event will deliver infrastructure, such as transport links, that are visibly markers of legacy, but it is the softer indicators that are, arguably, more interesting.

Once the world’s fair moves on from Dubai, it will leave behind District 2020, an urban planning vision of sustainably built commercial and residential space. More than that, the exhibition is intended to stimulate SME growth. If Cityscape has always been an event where this country’s dream factory pumps out some of the more eye-catching building proposals around, District 2020 appears grounded in the commercial reality of creating a more prosperous future for the city and the country.

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Updated: September 10, 2017 01:38 PM