The first World Expo took place in London’s Crystal Palace in 1851. Ten countries participated, and more than 18,000 merchants showcasing innovative machinery and other new products. The event has since been hosted by countries such as France, Germany, and the United States, and has welcomed more than 180 nations.
The 2020 World Expo in Dubai will feature 190 participating countries and welcome millions of visitors to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The following are four recent developments regarding the first-ever Expo in the Middle East:
Infrastructure Reaches 100 Percent Completion
Expo 2020 is scheduled to commence in October 2020 and run until April 10, 2021. While work is still being completed on different structures and pavilions for individual countries, 100 percent of the necessary infrastructure work was completed in October 2019, according to Expo 2020 Dubai chief development and delivery officer Ahmed Al Khatib.
This work includes power stations that will provide energy for the 4.38-square-kilometer site and main construction work covering the three thematic districts of Sustainability, Mobility, and Opportunity. Meanwhile, roadworks around the Dubai South site have reached an advanced stage.
Construction of US Pavilion Underway
One of the many pavilions that have yet to be completed is the US Pavilion. Construction of the building began on March 10 and was officially inaugurated by John Rakolta Jr., who is the US ambassador to the UAE and will serve as commissioner general of the pavilion. Speaking at the event, Rakolta stressed that the US Pavilion will highlight the innovation of American entrepreneurs due in part to freedom and liberty of thought. Earlier in the month, Global Ties US and Thinkwell Group were selected to oversee operations and cultural programming.
One of the highlights of the pavilion will be a hyperloop ride experience installed by California-based Virgin Hyperloop One. According to its website, a hyperloop is a fully autonomous and emission-free method of transportation that can move people and freight at speeds up to 670 miles per hour. The enclosed hyperloop vehicle floats above the track and accelerates through a low-pressure tube via magnetic levitation and electric propulsion.
Trial Run of Self-Driving Vehicles
While visitors to the US Pavilion can expect to be transported throughout the building via the hyperloop, the Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) initiated a trial run of an autonomous vehicle at the Expo 2020 Dubai site in March.
The electric-powered vehicle is capable of accommodating 15 passengers and operating for up to 16 consecutive hours at 15 miles per hour. It employs high-accuracy positioning systems and advanced sensors to ensure the safety of all passengers and will automatically stop when in close contact with an object.
The vehicle is being used to transport individuals back and forth from the main entrance to staff offices during construction. It will be in use for a three-month period, during which time the RTA will test and monitor its autonomous technologies as well as the safety of all individuals and surrounding properties.
Beyond potentially serving guests at Expo 2020 Dubai, the trial run is part of a larger effort to expand the Dubai Self-Driving Transport Strategy, which intends for 25 percent of all mobility journeys into Dubai to be self-driving by 2030.
Organizers’ Statement Regarding COVID-19
Many events around the world have been postponed or canceled in response to the COVID-19 pandemic but, at least as of March 18, Dubai had no plans to cancel or change the date of Expo 2020. At that time, the UAE had 113 confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Expo 2020 director general Reem Al Hashimy said during a virtual Steering Committee meeting that the country will take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of everyone involved. This includes applying measures as suggested by relevant bodies such as the World Health Organization and the Dubai Health Authority.
“We always knew that 2020 was going to be demanding,” said Al Hashimy. “What we could not predict is that we would be doing so in the midst of the biggest global health crisis in generations.”
She continued, “These are difficult, uncertain times, which makes it even more heartening to see communities around the world facing this challenge together and to witness the incredible resilience of the human spirit against a menace that does not recognize international borders or timelines. World Expos are intended to be celebrations of our collective endeavor and achievement as humanity, and these times call for our solidarity and unity more than ever.”
The UAE isn’t the only country committed to continuing with Expo 2020 Dubai as planned. Steering Committee chair Manuel Salchli of Switzerland noted that all participating countries are willing to complete construction on their respective pavilions and make necessary adjustments in accordance with COVID-19 developments.