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Middle East’s first Expo to open in Dubai under shadow of pandemic By Reuters


© Reuters. The Expo 2020 Dubai site, Dubai, United Arab Emirates on September 14th 2021 is occupied by construction workers. REUTERS/Alexander Cornwell


DUBAI (Reuters) – The first world fair to be held in the Middle East, Expo 2020 Dubai, opens its doors to exhibitors from almost 200 countries on Oct. 1 after being delayed for a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

When Expo 2020 Dubai took place eight years ago in Dubai, it was a desert site covering 4.3km (1.7 mile).

Six years later and $6.8 billion later the UAE needs more economic support from the global showcase. But it will still have to face COVID-19 limitations, as well as reluctances of travel.

EY, a consultancy, predicted that Expo will contribute 1.5% to UAE’s GDP over its six month duration. This was before the pandemic.

Dubai anticipates 25 millions visitors. This is twice the number of people who visited Milan, and nearly double the amount expected to visit the UAE. Anyone over 18 years old will need to have a coronavirus vaccine or be negative in order to gain entry.

Diplomats representing five countries stated that they have reduced the visitor target for their respective national pavilions. Capital Economics economist James Swanston said that the continued obstacles to foreign travel mean the economic boost is unlikely to exceed projections.

The Expo has been “delighted” so far with ticket sales, despite being commercially sensitive.

Many events will stream live online.

Dubai claims that the Expo is an international exhibition of technology, culture and architecture. Its purpose is to show ingenuity as well as a forum where conflict, climate change and economic growth are all addressed.

The Expo’s primary role, however, is to facilitate trade.

“All major trading countries and powers plan to use Expo to refocus and to redefine their position in the world market,” said France’s Expo commissioner-general, Erik Linquier.

However, the event has its critics.

The European Parliament last week urged member states and companies to boycott the Expo in disapproval of the UAE’s human rights record, alleging “systematic persecution of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers and teachers speaking up on political and human rights issues in the UAE” and pervasive “inhumane practices” inflicted on many of the migrant workers that the UAE relies on.

The UAE rejected the resolution as “factually incorrect” and said that its laws enshrine fair treatment for all.

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