Exit Expo: the Dubai World Expo ends with fireworks
Dubai will bid farewell to its extravagant Expo 2020 world fair on Thursday, leaving a multibillion-dollar mini-city in the desert and heightened expectations for future hosts – Copyright RIA NOVOSTI/AFP/File Sergey Krasnouhov
Dubai closed Expo 2020 with a colorful closing ceremony punctuated by fireworks on Thursday, leaving a multibillion-dollar mini-city in the desert and heightened expectations for future hosts.
Six months after the delayed opening of the $7 billion purpose-built venue, Christina Aguilera, Nora Jones and cellist Yo-Yo Ma perform at the LCD-lit Al Wasl Dome, the centerpiece of the Expo, as pyrotechnics lit up the sprawling site.
Millions of people flocked to the Expo’s 192 national pavilions in its final days, pushing the number of visits to more than 23 million – not far from the targeted 25 million, despite the ongoing pandemic – and making it difficult to looking for a taxi elsewhere in the city.
In 30 degrees Celsius (86 Fahrenheit) heat, long lines formed at popular attractions, including the falcon-themed United Arab Emirates Pavilion and the Saudi Arabia Building, a inclined slab that seems to hover in the air.
“It was a huge experience, it was really, really great,” said Abbas Masud, 66, a retired banker from Pakistan.
“I’ve done about 172 countries. I wanted to do the 192 but I don’t think I can do it because it’s the last day. I feel a little sad.
Expo, housed in a circular site twice the size of Monaco, was a point of pride for Dubai’s monarchical rulers and one of many projects to capture the world’s attention.
Dubai, the commercial heart of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates, is home to the world’s tallest building, the 830-meter (2,723-foot) Burj Khalifa.
In February, he opened a museum of the future – in the shape of a silver ellipse decorated with Arabic calligraphy – which promotions said was “the most beautiful building in the world”.
– Inauspicious start –
The Expo, which began with the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London and has since featured innovations such as the telephone and microwave, is now moving to Osaka in Japan for the 2025 edition on an artificial island.
“Clearly we have set a new bar here – it’s something I think (Osaka) will seek to aspire to,” said Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the International Exhibitions Bureau, according to the UAE’s The National newspaper.
The event started inauspiciously, with a year-long pandemic delay and a call for a boycott from the European Parliament, which criticized the UAE’s human rights record and ‘inhumane’ practices towards immigrant workers .
Three workers died and more than 70 were seriously injured during construction of the Expo, officials said later, insisting that safety standards were “world class”.
Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo and Novak Djokovic were among the sports stars to visit, alongside Saudi de facto leader and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the leaders of France, Brazil, Turkey and Morocco.
The site, with its covered walkways and loudspeakers playing soothing music, is now envisioned as a car-free “15-minute town”, with all parts accessible on foot or by bike within a quarter of an hour.
Eighty percent of the structures will remain, including the self-powered “Sustainability” pavilion and a giant water feature that makes water appear to be flowing upwards.
District 2020, as the Expo site will be known, is trying to attract high-tech and digital companies to become a hub of innovation.
“It was never an investment to host an Expo,” the show’s general manager, Reem Al Hashimy, told AFP in September.
“It was an investment to create a new city equidistant between Dubai and (the capital of the United Arab Emirates) Abu Dhabi and truly the city of the future.
“This investment goes into a city through 2040, 2050 and beyond.”