The legacies created by World Expos should not be underestimated. From transformational infrastructure to innovative solutions to global problems, the potential for host cities to leave their mark on the rest of the world is enormous. The potential for an Expo to provide lasting benefits to the host nation has also been proven time and time again.

According to the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), which oversees World Expo events, there are four main types of legacy creation: transformational; informational; thematic; and cultural. Perhaps the most obvious is the transformational potential.

Lisbon 1998, for example, took a run-down industrial area 10 kilometres from the city centre, home to the abandoned Cabo Ruivo International Transatlantic Airport, and regenerated it to become an attractive, liveable precinct. In Canada, the city of Montreal used its 1967 Expo to become a major player in the international events arena, going on to host the 1976 Summer Olympics and motorsport’s Formula One Canadian Grand Prix.

District generation

Dubai too has ambitions of hosting more global events in the future. In terms of transformational legacy, the site near Jebel Ali Port will become a new urban district halfway between Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The 438-hectare development situated next to the Dubai World Central economic zone, Al-Maktoum International airport and Jebel Ali Port is one of the largest Expo sites to date. After the event, it will become Dubai Trade Centre – Jebel Ali, which has ambitions as an international business tourism hub and will include an Institute Zone with research centres and universities, a national museum and an exhibition and convention centre.

The legacy plan would serve for the creation of a model city delivering tangible long-term benefits: Ivan Prostakov, BIE

Extending Dubai Metro’s Red Line to the site will further improve the long-term desirability of the area and enhance its potential to become a globally important business district. Not surprisingly, real estate firms are already launching projects. Developers may want to tread with caution, however, as despite growing demand, property consultants are already warning of unsustainable price rises and the potential for the market to be flooded with new projects in the short term.

At the same time, planning specialists say the design of external network systems, such as power, water and roads, should be based on future requirements with the event itself designed to minimise additional demand by the use of temporary facilities.

In terms of an information legacy, Dubai has set itself the challenging task of creating a new world benchmark for renewable energy at a global event. Its solar-focused strategy will see 44MW of installed generation capacity provide half the Expo’s electricity requirements and make a significant contribution to the emirate’s plans to generate five per cent of its power from renewables by 2030. The 44MW capacity is nine times more than any previous Expo has installed and will see the first large-scale application of building-integrated photovoltaic solar technology. This will involve a shade structure in the central pavilion constructed using a fabric that generates solar power.

Sustainable development

Beyond energy, Dubai has also announced additional sustainability criteria, including plans to monitor the carbon footprint and achieve a neutral water balance. Furthermore, 30 per cent of the building materials used for the Expo are to be made from recycled aggregate content.

“The Dubai Expo legacy plan could be also a unique opportunity for Dubai, the UAE, the BIE and Expo participants to demonstrate a stewardship in sustainable development,” says Ivan Prostakov, spokesman for the BIE. “The legacy plan would serve for the creation of a model city delivering tangible long-term benefits in minimising environmental damage and driving a systematic change in business and social practices.”

Long-term impact

On the thematic side, Dubai has the opportunity to make an important contribution to global development on the three subjects it has elected to pursue within its global theme of Connecting Minds; Creating the Future: mobility, opportunity and sustainability.

Progress has already begun with the establishment of a e100m ($136m) fund Expo Live, which is intended to bring together experts to develop solutions for communities around the world before, during and after the Expo. Two projects – an affordable solar lantern known as D-Light and a clay pot that uses filtering technologies to bring clean drinking water to developing countries – have already received investment.

Finally, the BIE points to the cultural legacy. “In 2020, an Expo will be held for the first time in an Arab country; that means the legacy of the Dubai Expo should have an important long-term impact for the whole Middle East, North Africa and South Asia region,” says Prostakov. From the region’s first World Expo to the world’s tallest building, Dubai has never shied away from taking the lead. It must now ensure its ambition is channelled wisely and the full legacy potential is realised. So far, the signs are good.

Expo views: Gerald lawless President and CEO, Jumeirah Group

Hosting the World Expo 2020 will be a fantastic opportunity for Dubai and, indeed, for the UAE. It was great to see such unity of purpose throughout the country in the efforts that were made to win this bid.

It is of great significance to the economy of the country, the economy of Dubai and certainly to the future for Jumeirah, being one of the major players in the hospitality segment, considering the number of new hotels that will be built. This also endorses Dubai as the regional hub of the Middle East in terms of commerce and tourism. It underlines its commitment to the aviation industry and being one of the leading aviation hubs of the world.

Over the coming years, we will see further infrastructure development plus the instilling of confidence into the future of Dubai. The fact that we can continue to achieve these ambitions makes people feel more confident.

I recently happened to mention to a colleague: “Isn’t it great for Dubai that we have won the Expo 2020?”

His response was what a lot of people were saying: “Isn’t it great for the Expo that Dubai has won 2020? Particularly when you see how the World Expo 2020 was promoted by Dubai and the UAE, right down to the fact that Emirates airline has the World Expo 2020 logo on all of its aircraft.”

Gerald Lawless will address MEED’s Destination Dubai conference on 28-29 January (www.meed.com/events)

Notable legacies of past expos

1851: London Profits fund Victoria & Albert Museum, Imperial Science College and Museum of Natural History

1876: Philadelphia Introduction of innovations including the telephone, typewriter and tomato ketchup

1889: Paris The Eiffel Tower built as entrance archway to the event

1937: Paris Palais de Chailot and exhibition of Picasso’s Guernica depicting a German attack on the Basque town

1958: Brussels Atomium landmark, new synthetic materials and automated machines developed

1962: Seattle Seattle Space Needle Building

1970: Osaka First mobile phones introduced, maglev trains demonstrated and lunar rock samples displayed

2010: Shanghai World Expo Museum

Source: MEED