Audience of millions, in Dubai and around the world, welcome the start of what has been billed as ‘The World’s Greatest Show’
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, hailed “a new beginning” as Expo 2020 Dubai was officially declared open on Thursday night in a star-studded, awe-inspiring ceremony.
It has been eight years since Dubai won the bid to host the World Expo, back in November 2013. An additional year may have passed due to the coronavirus pandemic-enforced postponement, but guests inside Al Wasl dome, and a global audience of millions, will agree it was worth the wait, as Expo 2020 Dubai launched in fantastic style.
Sheikh Hamdan said: “The entire world gathers in the United Arab Emirates. Today, we witness, together, a new beginning, as we inaugurate, together, with the blessings of Allah, Expo 2020 Dubai.”
The 182-day event, which boasts the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, amid subthemes of Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity, opens its doors to the public on Friday and runs through to March 31, 2022, includes 192 pavilions, up to 60 live events-a-day and over 200 food and beverage outlets.
Organisers have predicted there will be some 25 million visits to the site, which is twice the size of Monaco, over the course of the next six months.
Sheikh Nahayan Bin Mubarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence, recalled the UAE’s first participation in an Expo in Osaka, Japan, in 1970, in a pavilion inspired by Al Ain’s Al Jahili Fort.
He said: “Our mere presence here, amid all the challenges the world is facing, is proof of our keen commitment and desire to make the world a better place for all.
“By hosting Expo 2020 Dubai, we aim to convey a message of tolerance and that we are willing to collaborate with all of the world.
“By connecting minds we hope to sow the seeds of progress for the next 50 or even 100 years. This is the vision we must keep in our minds, for every reality throughout history started with a vision.”
He added that the global showcase takes on even greater importance for the country, which celebrates its golden jubilee later this year.
He said: “Together, we will convey, from the UAE to the world, on our 50th anniversary, a message of tolerance, coexistence and peace; a message of progress, prosperity and growth; a message of brotherhood, happiness and an unwavering will to create a brighter future for everyone.”
Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), said the Expo was a platform for inclusive multilateralism, bringing together countries, international organisations, businesses, NGOs, researchers and citizens, in a common endeavour to generate new perspectives, inspire real-life solutions and address the greatest challenges.
“But, in the case of Expo 2020 Dubai, this purpose takes on a renewed and powerful meaning. As we entered the last phase of preparations, our journey towards this great event was punctuated by an unprecedented global health crisis that has had profound consequences on us all,” he said.
“Faced with this immense challenge, communities around the world have been shaken.
“The social fault lines of our world have been laid bare, with the pandemic revealing and exacerbating pre-existing disparities and inequalities in wealth, race, gender, age, education and geography.
“With its theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, Expo 2020 Dubai gathers us here over the next six months to help shape a better world, a world where we look beyond our differences and are united in our diversity, a world more compassionate and resilient,” he added.
Excitement for the grand opening built during the day, reaching the climax at 7.30pm, when invited guests took their seats and the evening’s entertainment got underway, in the shape of the pre-show, a superb appetiser to the main event.
Guests at the event, and a global audience of millions, were treated previously promised a “beautiful surprise” by Tareq Ghosheh, chief events and entertainment officer, Expo 2020 Dubai – and he was true to his word, with a fantastic display of action, light, sound and mesmerising choreography.
Over the course of the 90-minute opening, there were 11 headline performers, including Grammy nominated, Golden Globe-winning actress, singer and songwriter Andra Day, Platinum-selling British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding, international mega-star pianist Lang Lang and four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo.
The evening was rounded off in spectacular style with a stunning performance of The Prayer from world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli.