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United Arab Emirates

World EXPO 2020: Perceptions, Realities and Prospects

Mehmood Ul Hassan Khan


UAE Minister of State Reem Ibrahim Al Hashimi and Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo said the government needs private sector help to support Dubai’s bid to host Expo 2020 as the whole country and the region would get benefits from the event. She was of the opinion that active participation of the private sector would make Dubai’s case stronger. She claimed that there would be a lion share for every sector of the private sector in the country. She said that Dubai already has very significant infrastructure for big events and “we promised we delivered.”


Last week, UAE Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum opened the 3rd Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES) and the Exhibition at the World Trade Centre in Dubai where he also asserted that UAE is a centre for creativity and innovation on the regional and global levels and provides the ideal environment. More than 2000 businessmen and decision makers attended the summit that would further enhance Dubai’s chances to win the bid for hosting World Expo 2020.

The US President Barack Obama televised addressed to 3rd Annual Global Entrepreneurial Summit (GES) in Dubai, highly appreciated the leadership and its people to achieve high standard of development. It is possible when people of vision and imagination can pursue their dreams, US President Barack Obama added. “Here in Dubai, let us keep creating the next generation of dreamers and creators and builders,” he said. Admirations from the world leaders would helpful for Dubai to win the race of World Expo 2020 in the days to come.

United Arab Emirates specially and Dubai rigorously are working hard to host the World Expo 2020. In this regard, few days ago the UAE submitted its final plans to host World Expo 2020 to the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, or BIE. The final decision will be announced in November 2013. If the UAE wins the bid, Dubai will become the first city in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region to host a World Expo. With one third of the world’s population living within a four-hour flight of the UAE and 50 million passengers travelling through Dubai International Airport in 2011, Dubai is strongly positioned to welcome the world and showcase all the emirate has to offer during the World Expo 2020.

Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State and Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo
Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State and Managing Director of the Higher Committee for Hosting the 2020 World Expo

While meeting with private sector representatives she said “More than its infrastructural facilities, Dubai has the capabilities and has a strong case as the emirate is a safe and secure place to live and holds good experience in organising and hosting world-class events.” Different points of convergences were also thoroughly discussed during the meeting. Role of Dubai Chamber was appreciated and considered to be important to support the bid. The meeting was the first step to achieve high level of awareness among the private sector, public sector and international stakeholders, she added.

In his welcome address, Hamad Buamim, director general of the Dubai Chamber, said that it is the moral responsibility of the business community to support this national campaign that will bring business and promote growth in the country. He said “Dubai Chamber is utilising all its resources through its local, regional and global network of stakeholders and associates to generate support for the bid”. He emphasized that the Dubai Chamber, during its foreign visits as well as while receiving overseas delegations, makes it a point to promote the advantages of Dubai by highlighting its leading economic sectors like trade, tourism, logistics and financial sectors, as well as its world-class infrastructural facilities.

The participants spoke highly about Dubai’s marvelous infrastructure development, use of latest technologies, financial strength, strategic location, comparative advantages and above all leadership commitment towards revolutionizing emirate.

They projected Dubai as an ideal choice to host the World Expo 2020. Dubai reverberates with the selected theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, and Dubai Expo 2020 will prove a vibrant, memorable experience for all involved, Bin Byat added. He said “I have every confidence in our bid, and will look forward to its success being a catalyst for ushering in a new era of partnerships to promote growth and a sustainable future for the UAE”.


Dubai government is using all possible means to win the support to host World Expo 2020. It has been engaged with different coordinated efforts and meetings to raise awareness of its strong credentials. Social media is effectively engaged to promote Dubai’s main characteristics throughout the world. Even, the Chairman of Dubai International Film Festival (DIFF) announced that the organisation is supporting the UAE’s bid.

Abdulhamid Juma, Chairman of DIFF, highlighted the Festival’s international prominence, commenting, “Building bridges of understanding throughout global communities is vital for the progression of humankind and promoting such cultural awareness has always been imperative for Dubai International Film Festival’s vision. The Festival is a gateway of innovation between the East and the West, bringing together some of the most creative and progressive minds from across the globe and making it an ideal platform to further promote and support the UAE’s bid.”

During the international film festival all delegates at DIFF will wear Dubai Expo 2020 pins and the bid’s branding will appear on all official banners and collateral. Ali’s Film, a feature film produced specifically to support the bid, will be played at the gala dinner on the final night of festival, which is going on in the emirate.

Comparative study of competing cities


(a) Dubai, UAE: “Expo theme “Connecting minds, creating the future”

United Arab Emirates (UAE) has seven emirates and Abu Dhabi is its capital. According to official figures it has approximately population of 2 million people. Dubai is the financial hub of the UAE which attracts high ratios of foreign direct investments (FDIs). It is also hub of innovations, modern technologies and tourism. It is known for signature building projects like Burj Al Arab and the Palm Jumeirah Island, to Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Dubai is not just tallest buildings. It is more than that, offering lots of amazing opportunities for all.

Dubai claims that it is an ideally place which is also strategically located for hosting World Expo 2020. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and the Ruler of Dubai said “We would be able to do it. We would be honoured to do it.”


1. UAE: Basic Characteristics

According to official figures, it has 83,600 sq km and is 115th in world. Its total population is 7.9 million and stands at 116th in the world. Life expectancy is 76.71 years. It is the second largest economy in the region and has GDP per capita $47,700, 12th globally.

2. Potentials

The comparative study reveals that Dubai is the ideal city to host the World Expo 2020. It is even endorsed by Urso Chappell, founder of by saying “definitely one of the serious candidates” for 2020. Connecting people, as Dubai’s impressive bid highlights, “lies at the heart of the UAE’s vision as a cosmopolitan nation he added. He is of the view that by connecting minds, our common aspirations are celebrated and together we can work to create a brighter future”.

UAE is the wealthiest country in terms of per capita GDP $47,700. Russia is at $16,700 being the nearest rival. It has even better life expectancy as compare to other competing countries/cities. It has no match even in the levels of happiness and prosperity indexes to other countries/cities for hosting World Expo 2020.


Dubai with outstanding and sustainable socio-economic development for the last forty years has made it ideal destination/city of hosting World Expo 2020. It has been experiencing rich expertise of hosting world class events, summits, expos, exhibitions and conferences. It announced to develop a 438 hectare site at Dubai Trade Centre Jebel Ali, halfway between the city and Abu Dhabi. It seems that the city is “logistically ready to host a World Expo”. It is an ideal destination of the global tourism where 80 percent of the world’s population could reach less than 8 hours. By 2015, Dubai International Airport is expected to be the busiest in the world and the new Al Maktoum Airport, next to the proposed Expo site, will be able to handle 160 million passengers a year.

Last but not the least, its proposed date of hosting World Expo 2020 would be more convenient to tourists, businessmen and all the participants due to friendly weather in the city. Being the latest status of decent living city of the world, hub of financial services, leader in renewable energies, ideal destination for all the famous brands/multinational companies, and the last but not the least rich experience of hosting various international expos, exhibitions, summits and conference would go in its favour long way to win the race and host World Expo 2020.

(b) Ekaterinburg, Russia: Expo theme “The global mind”

According to an official figure, it has population of 1.35 million. It is known for The Tsar and his family was murdered here by the Bolsheviks in 1918. They claim “Ekaterinburg Expo 2020 shall be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate innovatively, technologically and scientifically advanced Russia engaging foreign partners to a mutual conversation on issues mentioned.”

3. Russia: Basic Characteristics

It has 17.09 million sq km area and 1st in world. It has population of 142.5 million, and stands 9th in the world. Its life expectancy is 66.46 years which ranks 164th globally. It has GDP per capita $16,700, at72nd globally.

Ekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth-largest city is 1,430km east of Moscow. It is situated on the dividing line between Europe and Asia. If successful, it would be the first Expo hosted by Russia. More important, perhaps, the bid makes a case for opening up to the world the vast and lesser-known tracts of the country in and beyond the Ural Mountains. It has ambitious objective, “to engage the world in an open dialogue about our shared future and help to enhance the transformation of Russia towards a more open and expressive society”.

Comparative study shows that Russia has weak, less attractive or less convincing theme, i.e. the Global Mind. It does not convey its strength and clarity to larger world. It does not portray its real values of hopes, dreams and aspirations to the world. Its proposed dates May 1 to October 31, 2020 which would not be so friendly weather would also be not easy for the tourists to visit. Sensitive issues of human rights, corruption, transparency, political freedom and hot pursuits of power politics would act against its chances to host World Expo 2020.

(c) Sao Paulo, Brazil: Theme “Power of diversity, harmony for growth”

According to official figures, it has population of 11.31 million. It is one of the main emerging economies in the world. The city is famous for financial capital of Brazil. It is the 10th richest city in the world.

They project “In the upcoming years, we are going to host the World Cup and the Olympic Games. In 2020, Brazil and Sao Paulo will be well prepared for hosting this big event. All levels of government will work together to honour this tradition of great shows.”

4. Brazil: Basic Characteristics

According to Brazilian government’s figures, it has 8.51 million sq km area and 5th in the world. It has population of 194 million. Its life expectancy is 72.79 years, 124th in the world. It has GDP per capita $11,800, stands 102nd globally.

Like UAE, Dubai it has also a long record of hosting major events. Its previous unsuccessful bids could not the good for its bid to host World Expo 2020. If it is sanctioned to host World Expo 2020, it will be staged after Brazil’s 2014 football World Cup and 2016 summer Olympics. In case of World Expo 2020 to be held in Brazil, there would be lesser interests left for the tourists, businessmen and people alike to revisit the same country time and again.

It has plan of a 502 hectare exhibition site with hotels, malls and a major conference centre, and new roads, railways, airport and “digital highway” infrastructure. It’s important socio-economic credentials are not matched with the World Expo 2020. It would only consolidate Sao Paulo’s leadership role in the internationalisation of the Brazilian economy. Proposed dates: May 15 to November 15, 2020. Its economic domination, and other trade issues with other countries would not be good of it.

(d) Ayutthaya, Thailand: theme “Redefine globalisation, balanced life, sustainable living”

It consists of 80,000 people. It is the smallest among the other competing countries/cities. It is known for Ayutthaya Historical Park, site of ruins of the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam, destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.

They highlight “Ayutthaya, the former capital city, is a diplomatic crossroad that opened the door to Asian civilisation, a port city, a centre of trade, the Venice of the East, linking the Silk Road to the world. It is really a city of perfect balance a perfect illustration of our proposed theme, Redefine globalisation: balanced life, sustainable living.”

5. Thailand: Basic Characteristics

It spreads on 513,120 square kilometres, 51st in world. It has population of 67.05 million, 19th in the world. Its life expectancy is 73.83 years, 114th globally. Its GDP per capita is $9,400, 114th in the world.

Comparative study indicates that it has lowest GDP per capita among the other four countries/cities in the race of winning the bid of World Expo 2020. Financial resources are also not surplus to build such a huge infrastructure in the country. Rampant corruption, political uncertainty and deteriorating law and order situation would against its chances of wining World Expo 2020 bid

Thailand recently hosted Royal Flora Ratchaphruek 2006, an international horticultural exposition recognised by the BIE, might make it difficult for the organisation to grant the country a second international show so soon. Proposed dates: January 15 to June 15, 2020.

(e) Izmir, Turkey: theme “New routes to a better world, health for all”

According to Turkish official figures, it has population of 2.78 million. The city formerly known as Smyrna is famous for rebuilt by Alexander the Great.

The Turkish authorities say “The theme, which includes the healthy living concept, is based on a very strong content to catch attention and global participation. For the first time at the East of the Mediterranean, this Expo organisation is very important for us because it will strengthen peace and raise life expectancy of the people living in this area.”

6. Turkey: Basic Characteristics

It has size of 783,562 sq km, 37th in the world. It consists of 75.7 million, 17th globally. Its life expectancy is 72.77 years, ranked 125th. It has GDP per capita $14,400, 88th in the world. By judging its main characteristics, Izmir is probably Dubai’s most serious rival to host Expo 2020. Its ongoing power struggle in the region would be fatal for it. Izmir was in the running to host Expo 2015, a race it lost by a narrow margin to Milan. Its continued power struggle with Kurds, Syria and disputes with many regional countries would lessen its chances to some extend in hosting the World Expo 2020. Proposed dates: April 30 to October 31, 2020.

All the five cities already submitted copy of their dossiers about World Expo 2020 some days ago. Onward, each of the BIE’s 161 member states receives a copy of the dossiers, which will be examined in detail by its executive committee in May next year, then by the general assembly in July. A decision will be announced shortly afterwards.

Detailed comparative study of the above given countries clearly indicate that UAE, Dubai is well positioned in the race. Perceptions are there to distract people but realities and prospects are strongly projecting Dubai to win the bid of hosting World Expo 2020.

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