FILE - In this Oct. 8, 2019 file photo, the Sustainability Pavilion at the site of Expo 2020, which is under construction, is visited during a tour arranged for Associated Press journalists, in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Israel's commissioner to Expo 2020 in Dubai says next year's world fair offers the country an opportunity to present a fresh face to the Arab world. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili, File)
JOHANNESBURG -  Expo 2020 Dubai is preparing to put on the World’s Greatest Show of human brilliance and achievement. 

It will be a moment in time to be part of a never-experienced event, with access to the greatest inventions and millions of chances to make a lasting change.

What are World Expos?

The World Expo is one of the world’s oldest and largest international events, taking place every five years and lasting six months.

World Expos are unrivalled among international events in their size, scale, duration and visitor numbers. They are large-scale platforms for education and progress that serve as a bridge between governments, companies, international organisations and citizens.

They are festivals for all, where everyone can learn, innovate, create progress and have fun by sharing ideas and working together. Each Expo revolves around its own theme to leave a lasting impact on the path of human progress. Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
The first World Expo was London’s Great Exhibition of 1851.

Buildings and products first revealed at World Expos include the Eiffel Tower, the Seattle Space Needle, the typewriter, the television and even Heinz Tomato Ketchup.

Founded in 1928, the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) is the intergovernmental organisation that regulates and oversees World Expos, preserving the core values of education, innovation and cooperation on behalf of its 170 member states.

Expo 2020 Dubai – the highlights

  • Expo 2020 Dubai is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and we are extending an invitation to people from across the planet to join us for the World’s Greatest Show – a six-month celebration of human brilliance and achievement that will inspire everyone to create a better future for all. It will be a time to create and renew connections that will strengthen and deepen through 2020 and beyond, a time to be awed by the spectacular events programme, and a time to do business. Our doors will be open to the world between 20 October 2020 and 10 April 2021.
  • Expo 2020 Dubai is the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and the largest event ever held in the Arab world.
  • Expo 2020 Dubai’s theme, ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, is the belief that innovation and progress are the result of people and ideas coming together in new and unique ways.
  • For the first time in World Expo history, every country will have its own pavilion. Expo 2020 will also move away from traditional geographical clusters and band together countries facing similar challenges within the three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability.
  • On 27 November 2013, the UAE was elected as the host country of World Expo 2020 during the 154th General Assembly of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), with a record number of votes.
  • In March 2016, Expo 2020 Dubai revealed its new logo, which was inspired by a ring found at the Saroug Al Hadeed archaeological site in Dubai. The UAE connected ancient civilisations and continues to be a hub that connects the world.
  • Expo 2020 Dubai coincides with the UAE’s 50th anniversary in 2021, marking an important milestone for the UAE.  
  • Over the past 50 years, the UAE has impressed the world with its rapid growth and amazing achievements. Expo 2020 Dubai wants to motivate people to carry that innovative spirit forward for another 50 years – at least.  
With 25 million visits expected, Expo 2020 Dubai will create millions of opportunities for positive change, as we come together to solve some of the biggest challenges facing us all.

The people attending will come from all over the world, with 70 per cent expected to be international visitors, the highest proportion in World Expo history.

30,000 UAE resident volunteers from a range of nationalities and backgrounds will ensure visitors have the time of their lives – returning again and again.

Dates and Times
Dates: 
Opening day: 20 October 2020
Closing day: 10 April 2021

Site opening hours
Weekdays: 0900-0100
Weekends and special days: 0900-0200

Theme and Subthemes

Our world has never been more connected, and the opportunities for shared thinking, collective development and beneficial trade and commerce have never been greater. Expo’s theme is ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. The reason behind the choice of this theme is our belief that innovation and progress are the result of people from different fields and backgrounds, who would not normally collaborate, coming together in new and unique ways to share ideas.
The nations and organisations that will take part in Expo, and the millions who visit, will explore the power of connections across the key subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability – areas that we see as fundamental in shaping our world.
Opportunity: Unlocking the potential for individuals and communities to shape the future
Mobility: Creating smarter and more productive movement of people, goods and ideas, both physically and virtually
Sustainability: Respecting and living in balance with the world we inhabit to ensure a sustainable future for all

What are Expo 2020’s aims?

Throughout its history, the UAE has shown the world what is possible through its remarkable development. With Expo 2020 Dubai, we want to engage with people throughout our journey, to play a part in inspiring the next generation and, together, spark innovations that underpin the coming 50 years of human progress.
Expo 2020 will be a celebration of creativity, innovation, humanity and world cultures. We are extending an invitation to people from around the world to join us and experience a World Expo. It will be a time to create and renew connections that will strengthen and deepen through 2020 and beyond. It is a time to be awed by the spectacular events programme and a time to do business.

Expo 2020 Dubai will contribute to achieving the UAE Vision 2021 National Agenda by supporting the growth of tourism, stimulating the development of innovative businesses in the UAE, and enhancing the country’s international reputation as a location to do business.

Through our youth and business engagement activities, and the Expo itself, Expo will stimulate the economic, cultural and scientific growth, and unlock the potential of one of the world’s youngest and fastest growing populations
Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to building a legacy that is sustainable and enduring, and will set a benchmark for future World Expos.


The Expo 2020 Site

The Expo 2020 site is located within the Dubai South district, close to Al Maktoum International Airport and easily reached from Dubai International Airport, Abu Dhabi International Airport and Dubai and Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminals.

Historically, Dubai was called Al Wasl, or ‘the connection’, because of how it connected people from all over the region. On the Expo site, visitors will gather at Al Wasl Plaza to enjoy celebrations and cultural events from 192 countries.

The Expo site is 4.38 square kilometres.

Approximately 2 square kilometres will form the Expo gated area, while the remaining 2.4 square kilometres will feature supporting amenities and facilities, including the Expo 2020 
Village for participant and staff accommodation, warehousing, logistics, transport nodes, hotels, retail and a public park.

The three Thematic Districts are central to the design of the masterplan and reflect the subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. The Expo gated area will feature 192 individual Country Pavilions that will showcase the unique architecture, culture and exhibits that each country wishes to present. The Thematic Pavilions will house interactive exhibitions and engaging content to explore the themes in a fun and entertaining way. Each Thematic District will also include performance spaces, innovation galleries and art installations and outdoor gardens. There is also a children’s park and a full events programme for families.

The Expo gated area will include a wide variety of food and retail options and visitors will be able to taste dishes from around the world and explore unique shopping experiences.

The Expo site will also include extensive hospitality, as well as private hospitality opportunities and state-of-the-art conference and meeting spaces and entertainment areas that will be made available for private hire.

Site development at the physical Expo 2020 Dubai site began in March 2016.

Outreach and Engagement

International engagement
Over six months, more than 200 participants, including 192 countries and millions of visitors, will come together to celebrate Expo 2020 Dubai.  
One of Expo 2020 Dubai’s goals is to contribute to the country’s international reputation as a location to do business and give the world the extra “push” it needs to tackle new challenges.
We want to attract people from all over the world by ensuring we offer something for everyone, across families, students, travellers, government and business.  

Economic Impact

Expo 2020 will help to achieve UAE Vision 2021 by increasing tourism and developing innovative businesses.
Expo 2020 has put a special emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), understanding that they are key to future growth and job creation in the United Arab Emirates. Expo 2020 has committed 20 per cent of direct and indirect spending to SMEs.

Overall Legacy Vision

Expo 2020 Dubai is committed to building a long-lasting and sustainable legacy in many industries and areas. More than 80 per cent of Expo 2020’s infrastructure will have practical value long into the future as part of District 2020.  

The overall aim is to create a long-term legacy of collaboration and innovation for human progress through four pillars:

  • Economic
  • Physical
  • Reputational
  • Social
  • Accenture, DP World and Siemens, as well as Merck KGaA Germany and Shanghai-based Atlas Capital, have already confirmed they will establish a permanent presence at District 2020.

Some cultural highlights from past Expos

The first World Expo – the Great Exhibition – took place in London in 1851. The concept became popular and was repeated across the globe, demonstrating an unparalleled power of attraction and a record of world-class legacies. Since the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) was created in 1928 to regulate and oversee these mega-events, World Expos have been organised around a theme that attempts to improve humanity’s knowledge, takes into account human and social aspirations, and highlights scientific, technological, economic and social progress.


1851 – London – The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations

The first World Expo was housed in an innovative new structure called Crystal Palace, designed by Joseph Paxton. Made from cast iron and glass, it was an architectural marvel of its time. Along with exhibits, it also housed trees and statues along the main walkways. The exhibition illustrated various inventions and innovations of the Industrial Revolution under its theme, ‘Industry of all Nations’.

1855 – Paris – Exposition Universelle des Produits de l’Agriculture, de l’Industrie et des Beaux-arts de Paris 1855

The Expo’s theme was ‘Agriculture, Industry and Fine Arts’, with a focus on industry. Inventions on show included the lawnmower and Moore’s washing machine. It had more than five million visitors and 27 participants.

1862 – London – London International Exhibition of Industry and Art

The Expo, with the theme of ‘Industry and Art’, showcased a new invention: the analytical engine.

1867 – Paris – Exposition Universelle de Paris 1867

The Expo hosted 42 participants and received about 15 million visitors. It also showcased two new inventions of the time: reinforced concrete and the hydraulic elevator.


1873 – Vienna – Weltaustellung 1873 in Wien

Held under the theme ‘Culture and Education’, this was the first Expo to offer international forums for scientists, witnessing 12 conferences and congresses.

1876 – Philadelphia – Centennial Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine

One of the highlights of this World Expo was the first public showing of the arm and torch of New York’s famous Statue of Liberty. The rest of the statue in New York Harbour would not be completed until 1886.

1878 – Paris – Exposition Universelle de 1878

Henri Giffard's giant steam-driven tethered balloon lifted visitors to the top of Trocadéro Hill, where a palace was constructed for concerts, art exhibits and international congresses that were held as part of the World Expo. The head of the Statue of Liberty was also showcased to the public, before being sent to New York.

1888 – Barcelona – Exposición Universal de Barcelona

The Arc de Triomf was built as the gateway to the World Expo, which was held in the Parc de la Ciutadella. The monument features sculptural and decorative finishes that were groundbreaking in their day. The Columbus Monument (Monument a Colom), a 60-metre monument to Christopher Columbus, was also built for the Expo on the site where Columbus returned to Europe after his first voyage to the Americas. It was erected at the lower end of Las Ramblas and still stands today.

1889 – Paris – Exposition Universelle de 1889

The Eiffel Tower was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Exposition Universelle de 1889. Constructed in just two years, two months and five days, it was considered a remarkable technical and architectural achievement and a demonstration of the standard of French engineering at the time. The tower was only intended to last 20 years, but endures to this day. This was also the World Expo when Thomas Edison unveiled his gramophone to the world.

1897 – Brussels – Exposition Internationale de Bruxelles

The Temple of Human Passions, influenced by the trend of the Art Nouveau movement, was built for the event and remains today in Brussels.

1900 – Paris – L'Exposition de Paris 1900

This World Expo witnessed the debut of talking movies, projecting both image and sound simultaneously – a major milestone in cinema.

1906 – Milan – Esposizione Internazionale del Sempione

The opening of the Simplon Tunnel, a railway connecting Switzerland and Italy through the Alps, was the highlight of this Expo.

1915 – San Francisco – Panama-Pacific International Exposition

In celebration of the construction of the Panama Canal, and the rebuilding of the city following a devastating earthquake, the Panama-Pacific International Exposition saw the establishment of a telephone line that connected the Golden City to New York, as well as the transfer of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia.

1935 – Brussels – Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles

The main home of the World Expo was the Exhibition Palace. The imposing structure was created using reinforced concrete, an innovative use of the material at the time, and still stands today. The Expo covered the theme of ‘Transportation’ and had 54 participant countries.

1937 – Paris – Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne

Held in the heart of France, overlooking the Eiffel Tower, the Expo had the theme of ‘Arts and Modern Technology’.    The Palais de Chaillot and the Palais de Tokyo, which now house the Musée de l’Homme anthropology museum  and the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris respectively, were erected for the Expo.

1939 – New York – New York World's Fair

With the theme of ‘Building the World of Tomorrow’, the Expo allowed visitors to glance the world of tomorrow. The scientist Albert Einstein gave a speech about cosmic rays and David Sarnoff, president of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA), introduced television to the mass public at the RCA pavilion by broadcasting a speech by United States President Franklin D Roosevelt.

1949 – Port-au-Prince – Bicentennial International Exhibition of Port-au-Prince

The Expo celebrated 200 years of Port-au-Prince, with the main theme being the festival of peace. It witnessed many competitions and festivities that promoted Haitian culture.

1958 – Brussels – Exposition Universelle et Internationale de Bruxelles – Wereldtentoonstelling Brussel 1958

The site is best known for the Atomium, a giant model of a unit cell of an iron crystal (each sphere representing an atom). More than 41 million people visited the Expo, which was opened with a call for world peace and social and economic progress by King Baudouin I, under the theme of ‘A World View: New Humanism’.

1962 – Seattle – Century 21 Exposition

Originally sketched on a napkin in a coffee house by Edward E Carlson, the president of Western International Hotels, the Space Needle went on to become the dominant central structure for the 1962 World Expo. The theme of the event was ‘Man in the Space Age’.

1967 – Montreal – Universal and International Exhibition Montreal Expo '67

With a theme of ‘Man and his World’, Montreal Expo showcased the various ways humanity influences the world. It welcomed more than 50 million visitors, more than twice the Canadian population at that time.

1970 – Osaka – Japan World Exposition Osaka 1970

The Expo saw the premiere of the first-ever IMAX film: the Canadian-produced Tiger Child for the Fuji Group pavilion, and the display of a moon rock brought by American astronauts. The Expo, whose theme was ‘Progress and Harmony for Mankind’, welcomed more than 64 million visitors.

1992 – Seville – Exposición Universal de Sevilla

The Expo was organised to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ discovery of the Americas, under the theme of ‘The Age of Discovery’.

2000 – Hannover – Expo 2000 Hannover

As a part of its theme, ‘Man, Nature and Technology’, exhibitors and participants showcased environmental consciousness. Many pavilions were created from reusable or recyclable material, while BMW focused on showcasing its efforts in creating environmentally-friendly vehicles.

2010 – Shanghai – Expo 2010 Shanghai

Shanghai’s Expo witnessed 246 participants and more than 73 million visitors, making it one of the largest World Expos ever held. Its theme, ‘Better City Better Life’, showcased the city’s new status as an international and developed city. The Expo also highlighted urban development. The Expo’s main building – called Expo Axis – had the world's largest membrane roof. It consists of steel-glass funnels and a 1,000-metre long membrane. After the event ended, Expo Axis became a permanent and iconic structure.

2015 – Expo 2015 Milan

The Expo’s theme, ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, focused on nutrition and food. It included subthemes such as dietary education, food for better lifestyles, technology for agriculture and biodiversity and science for food. It was the second time the city hosted a World Expo, with the first being in 1906.

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