Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 21 August 2019

Milan points the way to Dubai’s Expo

Both world fairs will help establish the UAE on the global stage and define its future role
Volunteers wait to receive visitors at the UAE pavilion at Expo 2015. (Giuseppe Aresu / The National)
Volunteers wait to receive visitors at the UAE pavilion at Expo 2015. (Giuseppe Aresu / The National)

The opening of Expo Milano 2015 on Friday not only marked the start of a hectic six months of celebration in that Italian city, it’s a reminder that the clock is now well and truly ticking down towards Expo 2020 Dubai. As The National has reported, visitors to the UAE pavilion in Milan will get a taste of what’s to come in Dubai. Its unique design, reminiscent of shimmering sand dunes, and use of cutting-edge audiovisual technology to tell the UAE’s story, have already caught the attention of the opening-weekend crowds.

Expos serve different purposes for different places. The most recent one, in Shanghai, was a grand showcase for the social and economic advances being made in the world’s most populous country. Milan’s is a more modest affair focusing on a historic city that is reinventing itself for the modern era, with a focus on sustainability reflected in its slogan, “Feeding the planet, Energy for life.” Expo 2020 Dubai, with the theme “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, will be about a young country confidently looking forward.

Dubai has already made great strides in diversifying its economy and building the right infrastructure for the future. The UAE is increasing its presence on the world stage, but there is more to be done in terms of getting the brand message across that Dubai, and the rest of the country, is well and truly open for business as well as tourism. It is reinventing itself as a hub of innovation and excellence.

One challenge for Dubai will be to have the same kind of “wow” factor that accompanied the unveiling of the Eiffel Tower at the Exposition Universelle in Paris in 1889. Since then, many world fairs have incorporated signature structures and vast urban-renewal projects. While some of the details of the Dubai vision are still under wraps, it is clear that as well as being the world’s biggest attraction for six months, the event will have tangible long-term benefits for the city and the UAE. It will help cement the country as a destination, and it will bring with it valuable infrastructure – including a new Metro line – that will remain long after the show has moved on.

The UAE pavilion in Milan will serve as an appetiser for the main course to come in five years. As its director, Dr Peter Vine, said: “What we want is for the visitors to say ‘we didn’t realise the UAE was like that’.”

Updated: May 2, 2015 04:00 AM

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