Dubai wins right to host World Expo 2020 bid
Nation erupts in joy; leaders extend congratulations; educational institutions get a day off to celebrate.
Dubai was the toast of Paris on Wednesday and promised to “astonish” the world in 2020 through its vision of innovation and creativity after it bagged the right to host the world’s biggest exposition following a gruelling campaign and three rounds of voting. The victory also brought to fruition a two-year-old dream for the city which emerged the clear winner in the French capital in the final round after leading all the way.
The World Expo 2020 buzz felt across the city was heightened in Paris, where the obviously emotional UAE contingent celebrated its hard work leading up to the announcement. The tally was overwhelmingly in favour of the dynamic city and its people, who have shown that nothing is impossible, and where dreams are turned into reality through enterprise and passion.
Dubai’s tally of 116 out of 163 votes put Russia’s Ekaterinburg in the shade and there was not a moment to lose as the Burj Khalifa came to life with fireworks and residents rejoiced as the winner was announced.
The President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, congratulated His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on the win and said: “Our joy in the UAE was doubled by the win as it coincides with the celebrations of the 42nd National Day.”
He said the team was confident about the bid, and added that the “country possesses all it takes to successfully organise a unique event that will add a new and outstanding imprint on the Expo series of events”.
Shaikh Mohammed, in a statement, said: “We renew our promise to astonish the world in 2020. Dubai will bring to life our vision: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future.”
He went on to congratulate the nation, the President and all people of the UAE. “I extend my thanks to His Highness Shaikh Khalifa for his great support, and to every country that voted for Dubai to host Expo2020. I am proud of our teams who earned this victory for Dubai with two years of hard work, dedication and commitment.”
Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Foreign Minister, and Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates Airline & Group and Chairman of the Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Committee, after winning the Expo 2020 bid in Paris on Wednesday. — Getty Images
Shaikh Mohammed has ordered that today be a holiday for all educational institutions across the UAE.
He said the Expo goal was to build a better future for the region’s youth. “The UAE will achieve it through collaboration and inspiration at the event. Dubai Expo 2020 will breathe new life into the ancient role of the Middle East as a melting pot for cultures and creativity,” he said.
General Shaikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, said: “The UAE has a wide and accumulated experience in hosting mega global events for decades.
vShaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, President of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Chairman of Dubai Airports, Chairman and Chief Executive of Emirates airline & Group and Chairman of the Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Committee, said Dubai was immensely proud to have the honour of hosting the major event, and thanked member states of the BIE.
“We will protect and be guided by them in delivering an exceptional Expo with a lasting legacy that will touch the lives of people across the globe for generations to come. The bid has been an incredible journey, led by the vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid, and we thank him for his faith in the Dubai Expo 2020 Committee.”
He revealed that the competition had been fierce and said the moment had to be “embraced and owned by the entire nation and beyond”.
Celebrations across the UAE
As the revelry gained steam, Sara Shaheen, an Emirati brought along her two daughters to become a part of history at Downtown Dubai, the hub of the festivities.
“We are very sure Dubai will win the bid and this will be a night of celebration. We will party at our homes, in the streets and it will be one of the best memories of our life.”
She was at Downtown with another Emirati, Elham Mohammed, who was also on top of the world.
“This will change our city and country to make it even better and develop it further. Our leaders lead us by example and this day will go down as one of the most important days in the history of our country,” said Elham.
Families and youngsters from all nationalities cheered in unison as the announcement was made. A makeshift carnival-like set up was built on the Jumeirah open beach with screens reflecting live results. “This is a great victory for us. We realise that it will be a lot of hard work in the coming months, but we will make it worth it,” said another Emirati national Obaid Al Shehi (20).
During the vote in Paris, only Ekaterinburg remained in the fray after two rounds and Dubai already had 52.7 per cent of the votes from 163 members in its kitty. The rest, as they say, is history and Dubai became the first Arab country to be chosen to host the world’s biggest exposition six years from now.
As news emerged in Paris that Dubai had taken 77 votes in first round — or 47 per cent of the vote — around 7pm UAE time, the already-optimistic mood in the Dubai camp in Paris soared, with broad smiles adorning the faces of Dubai’s Expo Committee.
The overwhelming votes for Dubai in the first round caused many present in Paris to believe the outcome of the vote was a foregone conclusion.
UAE Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan was also a visible presence at the voting, seen celebrating as voting results came back in.
Earlier in the day, the team gave the bid everything they had left during their fifth and final presentation to the 154th General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions about 2pm, UAE time.
The Managing Director for Dubai’s Higher Committee for Hosting the World Expo 2020 Reem Al Hashimi gave the address to those in attendance, including selected media and the 167 voting member nations — promising the highest number of visitors ever, and the world’s first carbon neutral expo.
From the outset, she pledged the UAE’s “highest political commitment”, noting her speech was one of the most important she would ever give.
“(Dubai Expo 2020 will give) a meaningful and far-reaching legacy, an authentic portrait of the interconnected and fast-moving world in 2020.”
She told the BIE members, who were in the city last month to explore Dubai’s capabilities and prospects as a future host, that she hoped her team had demonstrated Dubai’s “ability and commitment to deliver”.
“I hope you have been touched by the spirit of our young country that looks to the future with enthusiasm and hope.”
Dubai’s commitment to Expo 2020, and the themes of mobility, opportunity and sustainability, was a framework to develop effective solutions in a world of “shared destinies”, Al Hashimi said, noting she was speaking on behalf of millions in the UAE.
“It is a commitment to make the difference our children are expecting of us...my generation has been inspired by our forefathers...to open our communities to the world, to focus on eduction and human development. They have entrusted us with a city that is capable of working with the world and hosting the world...recognised as a place of openness and stability.”
Al Hashimi’s address was interspersed by three videos featuring voices of various supporters, from those involved with the bid to those endorsing it, including Bill Gates, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo and Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths.
Obasanjo said Dubai had progressed very quickly, “turning the desert into one of the most thriving and modern cities, becoming a centre of the world in its own right”.