Dubai's proudest moment

By winning the rights to hold the World Expo in 2020, Dubai is in line to achieve its goal to become one of the most strategic locations on the planet
Dubai's proudest moment
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of the Dubai Expo 2020 Higher Bid Committee.
By Courtney Trenwith
Sun 01 Dec 2013 10:58 AM

We won. Dubai will host the 2020 World Expo in an historic moment for not only the emirate but the entire Middle East.

About 25 million people from diverse cultures around the world are expected to converge on the emirate during the six-month long extravaganza, bringing together their ideas, solutions for the future and potentially life-changing inventions, at a time when the region is in need of such hope.

After more than a year of highly publicised lobbying, including banners and flags across the city and references to the bid at functions of all sorts, the organisers behind the Dubai bid celebrated in Paris after the 167 members of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) voted the emirate the best candidate to host the international event.

The four candidates were whittled down one by one until Dubai — which had always been a front runner — emerged the winner. First to go was Sao Paulo, followed by Izmir and, finally, Yekaterinburg. By winning  47 percent of the vote in the first round - significantly more than the other candidate cities - Dubai’s performance certainly eased the nerves, although the win wasn’t guaranteed until 8.40pm (UAE time) on Wednesday evening.

“We congratulate the nation, our president and all people in the UAE on Dubai’s winning bid to host the greatest exhibition in the world,” said HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, after the vote was confirmed.

“I extend my thanks to HH Sheikh Khalifa for his great support, and to every country that voted for Dubai to host Expo 2020. I am proud of our teams who earned this victory for Dubai with two years of hard work, dedication and commitment.”

The win is also a milestone for the region; it will be the first time the more-than-a-century-old event has been held in the Middle East. Many of Dubai’s supporters said taking the Expo to the region would be a symbol of hope, showcasing the emirate’s success in bringing together different cultures and peoples through common goals. The emirate also is an example of innovation — a key purpose of the Expo — having developed its economy from little more than pearl fishing to an international business, economic and transport hub in four short decades.

Now that Dubai has sealed the event, it will get to work on at least $8bn worth of infrastructure required to accommodate the influx of visitors, according to an estimate by Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the emirate’s top financial official. The new roads, metro extension and facilities at the 480-hectare host site in Jebel Ali, will themselves become a legacy of the Expo.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) already has announced plans to extend the Metro’s Red Line, which currently ends at Jebel Ali Station, about 10km from Al Maktoum International Airport, with the Expo in mind. The extension will include a stop at Al Maktoum airport. Efforts are also being made to connect the Dubai Metro system with Etihad Rail, a heavy rail network that will run for 1,200km through the UAE and connect the country to Saudi Arabia via Ghweifat in the West and Oman via Al Ain in the East.

Dubai’s second airport, Al Maktoum International Airport at Dubai World Central, also may be built at a faster pace to help accommodate the 17m people expected to visit the Expo from outside the country — which could make it the most visited Expo in history. It is expected that it will be the first time that more than 70 percent of the visitors have travelled from abroad, with Dubai geographically located within an eight-hour flight to about two-thirds of the world’s population.

The number of hotels is expected to double to accommodate everyone, as well as a large number of new residences for the thousands more workers that will move to the emirate, at least temporarily, to help construct the dramatic changes that will occur across the landscape in the coming six years.

The influx of people could have serious affects on the property market, which has already surged 30 percent in the past year as the emirate recovers from the financial crisis when property prices fell up to 60 percent.

Analysts predict buoyancy in the market following the win, but whether it will continue to push up prices leading up to the Expo will depend on developers’ will and capacity to build.

Soaring property prices in the wake of a successful Expo bid is not without precedent. In the 12 months prior to hosting the 2010 event, Shanghai saw its real estate values rocket by as much as 68 percent, leading the city’s mayor to introduce new taxes and regulations in order to cool the market.

The Expo site itself also will require a mammoth amount of construction. Details are yet to be fully revealed, but authorities have said it will be “a lasting architectural legacy” that will house spectacular entertainment and exhibitions showcasing the UAE and the world.

The masterplan for the site will be approved in 2015, with work expected to commence shortly afterwards and be completed for 2019. The construction will create 80,000 new jobs, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Dubai has earned a reputation for building a prosperous city in only a decade, and such an achievement is believed to have played a part in its successful bid. Prior to the vote, the emirate was publicly backed by countless international heavyweights and identities, including UK Prime Minister David Cameron, former US president Bill Clinton, former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, billionaire businessman Bill Gates, Canada and a host of international celebrities.

In previous years, some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, including Paris’s Eiffel Tower, the Panama Canal and the Victoria and Albert Science and Natural History Museums in London, have been built for the Expo and now attract millions of visitors a year.

Even many of the rides now in Disneyland were originally designed and built for the 1964 New York World Fair (the former name for the World Expo).

With the world’s tallest tower, the largest shopping mall and a series of giant man-made islands, only the imagination will be the limit in Dubai.

Visitors to the Dubai Expo also can expect to see for the very first time innovations that could potentially change the way we live.

The Expo has been the start of countless new things since its inception in 1851, when a precursor to the fax machine was revealed. Two decades later, in 1876, Heinz tomato sauce, Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone and the typewriter came to light, followed shortly by the phonograph — a sound recording device that brought music to the masses for the first time. Even the zipper, hot dogs and ice cream cones emerged from an Expo, while electricity and the mobile phone also made their first appearances at Expos.

What will come out of Dubai is anyone’s guess but it seems the world can have little doubt that the 2020 World Expo will be an historic moment for the emirate as it also celebrates the 50th anniversary of the UAE.

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