It was like any other early morning with a little bit of light peeping from underneath my window blinds. I sensed today was no ordinary day. It was as if the chill in the air beckoned me to get up and inhale the excitement which thousands or even millions like myself were feeling today. Of course – it is the day of reckoning! The moment many of us have been fervently waiting for!
Today the world will decide if Dubai has what it takes to connecting minds and thereby creating history.
So what is all the fuss about? Experts belonging to an internationally recognized fair organizing company opine that exhibitions such as the Expo 2020 are more about investing money – planning, development and most importantly in striving to achieve eventual sustainability.
The first known and globally recognized exhibition was held in London. Thanks to Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, the World Expo took place in the Crystal Palace – Hyde Park, London UK. Entitled “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations,” the fair was held in 1851 and played an elemental role in developing and promoting several aspects of English society from arts, culture, industry, to tourism etc.
Diversity has been an important aspect of the world exposition which has ensured the fair’s sustainability. It was in the early 40s, when the exhibition experienced a divergence in its focus. The New York’s World Fair in 1939-40 saw the beginnings of adopting cultural, humanity-focused themes. These were hard times. The Second World War had started and the great depression was gasping for its last few breaths.
According to historical databases: “In 1935, at the height of the Great Depression, a group of New York City retired policemen decided to create an international exposition to lift the city and the country out of depression. Not long after, these men formed the New York World’s Fair Corporation, whose office was placed on one of the higher floors in the Empire State Building. While the main purpose of the fair was to lift the spirits of the United States and drive much-needed business to New York City, it was also felt that there should be a cultural or historical association. It was therefore decided that the fair opening would correspond to the 150th anniversary of George Washington’s first inauguration as President of the United States, and the WPA painted murals which appeared in the New York Times Magazine.”
With the opening slogan ‘Dawning of a new day’, the exhibition – held in Flushing Meadows – promised its 44 million attendees brighter, prosperous days in “the world of tomorrow”. It is said to be the second largest American fair of all times.
Indeed dynamics have changed with altered global perspectives and outlook. Countries all across the world have had their fair share of crises, economic turmoil and huge financial disasters. A few are already on the mend and many have quite a long journey ahead of them. In such a turbulent landscape, the Expo opportunity comes knocking on the door, as a result countries are clamoring to attain this trove of boundless potential. It is most certainly a formidable platform for nation branding; with its enormous possibilities far outweighing the eventual costs!
Reminiscing about the world fair that took place in Sevilla Spain in 1992, a prominent Spanish IT personnel living in Dubai said: “It a was good year for Spain. Madrid was hosting the Olympics and Sevilla – the exhibition. The country was completely transformed. But what happened afterwards is more important now that I look back. Although Madrid has successfully sustained its luster even after the Olympics, Sevilla has failed to do so after the exhibition.” Sevilla now stands as a site divided into areas for research and development.
While many media men believe that any of the four candidate cities can win the Expo 2020, a few deem lack of experience in hosting such a large scale event a big setback for Dubai. Others consider the likelihood of the rich Yekaterinburg winning; suggesting the bulk of voters could tilt in Russia’s way in order to seek a profitable advantage.
That being said and reflected upon, there are a few things one just cannot ignore. The dates of events fall from October till April – the coldest time of the year particularly in Russia. With only a handful of hotels in the area, Yekaterinburg is much likely to be ousted out of the game as any other bidding city.
But what of the denizens of Dubai, a majority of whom fear the detonation of a renting blitz from left, right and center. “The first thing that comes to my mind is the increase in rents and of course the gradual rise of living costs in Dubai. Of course I am excited but that feeling of enthusiasm is not needlessly marred by apprehension. On the flip side, it will definitely be an opportunity to differentiate the best from the mediocre,” says marketing executive Sahar.
Today Dubai stands at a pivotal situation – on a roadmap to success? One has to wait and see. True, the Expo 2020 win means accelerating UAE’s growth at the speed of light but it will also mean striving to achieve sustainable progress in post exhibition era. Looking back, one cannot but feel hopeful for the journey ahead. Once a barren land with men diving for pearls to earn their daily bread, it is now a transformed miracle with riches abound.