The greatest show on earth begins in style, reports Asian Lite News
Dubai opened Expo 2020 in an extravagant ceremony that bathed the site’s signature central dome in light, a symbolic beacon for Dubai’s hopes that the world’s fair will draw tourists despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Delayed a year by the virus, Expo 2020 has over 190 countries taking part in the event that will last six months. The futuristic extravaganza, complete with individual pavilions feels like an entire city, built on what were once rolling sand dunes on Dubai’s southern edges.
Thursday night’s ceremony, attended by Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Dubai ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and a host of other dignitaries, offered the equivalent of a creation myth for Dubai as hundreds of singers, dancers and acrobats performed. The site’s central Al Wasl Dome, made of steel and weighing the equivalent of 25 blue whales, according to Expo organizers, became a 360-degree screen showing images of the desert and nature as sound rolled across the gathered audience.
His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, led in welcoming cultures from East to West, from North to South – of 192 countries that gathered not only to participate in the world’s greatest show but also to forge unity and convey the story of Expo’s overarching theme – ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince, officially opened the Expo which will run until March 31 next year. Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, set the tone of the global event.
SHEIKH MOHAMMED: “The nation is proud of the 10-year preparations for the largest global event that will last for six months, with the participation of 192 countries, underscoring the international trust in our country.”
The Expo will be one of the world’s first global events, following an Olympics this summer. But unlike Tokyo, the UAE has one of the world’s highest vaccination rates per capita and has seen its daily case numbers drop to their lowest levels in over a year.
After months of insisting that visitors do not need to prove their vaccination status, Expo changed course in recent days and said who come need to show proof of vaccination or negative coronavirus tests. Those attending Thursday night’s gala opening similarly had to offer a negative test result in the last 24 hours.
Dimitri S. Kerkentzes, the secretary-general of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions that oversees Expos, acknowledged the challenge of the coronavirus pandemic in a speech to those gathered.
“We have collectively overcome the hurdles and all persevered,” he said.