The first world exposition to take place in the Middle East had been due to open this month in Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates, but was delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
New images of the Expo site, in the south of the city, show pavilions near completion and thoroughfares laid out ready to welcome what organizers had hoped would be up to 25 million visitors
across the Expo's six-month duration. More than 190 countries are expected to be represented at the Expo, which is now set to take place between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022.
The event's theme "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" is based around mobility, sustainability and opportunity, with pavilions for each subject designed by Foster + Partners, Grimshaw Architects and AGi Architects respectively. The prestigious task of designing the UAE National Pavilion fell to Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
Over 210 million work hours have gone into the initiative so far, say organizers, with efforts in 2020 focusing on landscaping and completing Expo-owned buildings. Construction of national pavilions will be finalized by the end of December, according to a press release.
Since Dubai was awarded the Expo in 2013, billions of dollars have poured into the project, to develop both the 1,000-acre site and transport infrastructure throughout the city. Much of it will outlive the event itself: Dubai plans to reuse 80% of Expo infrastructure, through ambitious schemes such as the conversion of part of the site into a mixed commercial and residential development called District 2020.
The emirate has high hopes for the Expo as part of its efforts to diversify its economy and burnish the city's credentials as a hub for innovation. It will join a long list of cities, from London, home of the first Expo in 1851 (called the "Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations") to Milan, host of Expo 2015, all of which have touted the latest feats of human invention.
How many people will be able to make the journey to the Expo next year is still in question due to the pandemic. Dubai is currently open to tourists
, with strict guidelines including mask wearing and temperature checks.
"We hope that people will join us to achieve our objectives to bring the world together and put humanity and the planet on the right path towards dignity for all," said director general of Expo 2020 Dubai and UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation, Reem Al Hashimy, who added more details about the Expo would be shared in the coming weeks.