Expo 2020 celebrates its déjà vu milestone

04 October 2020
Expo 2020 has once again arrived at the 'one year to go' milestone before it opens its doors to the general public on 1 October 2021

The organisers and participants of the World Expo 2020 may be experiencing a sense of 'déjà vu' — an uncanny feeling of familiarity.

Expo 2020 first began its 365-day countdown in October 2019, when the six-month long exhibition was scheduled to start on 20 October 2020.

Handover of Expo 2020-owned facilities and structures was due to take place by the end of 2019 and the deadlines for the completion of country pavilions were to run from July to September 2020.

The Covid-19 pandemic and resulting challenges around health and logistics, however, forced an overhaul of plans.

Now, the organisers and others associated with the event have once again resumed their final stretch preparations.

“As we mark a year to go until we open, I want to thank all those who work so hard and so passionately to deliver an exceptional Expo," said Reem al-Hashimy, UAE minister of state for international cooperation and director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, in a recent statement. 

"From international participants, to government entities to the Expo tribe that has worked diligently and remained committed to bringing the event to fruition. The journey has been worth it, and in 365 days we will share our excitement and our passion with millions.”

Read: Dubai confirms Expo 2020 postponement

Participating nations and partners have taken this change in their stride, prioritising staff and public health over all else.

"Covid-19, the subsequent restrictions and the postponement of Expo 2020 Dubai are of course most unfortunate, but with every challenge, we are provided with a new opportunity," said Severi Keinala, commissioner general of Finland for Expo 2020 Dubai. 

"The additional time all participating countries now have will allow us to refine exhibition content and event programming, in particular the collaborations between other country’s pavilions."

Erik Linquier, commissioner general for the France pavilion at World Expo 2020 Dubai and chairman of Cofrex, said: "The postponement of Expo 2020 is a huge challenge for the Cofrex team, which remains committed to making the France pavilion a must-see event at Expo 2020. We are adapting to the new schedule and will optimise this extra year to pay even more attention to the visitor experience and to a reinvented programme, especially by mobilising the French community in the emirates."

Read the complete interviews with Severi Keinälä and Erik Linquier

Over the summer, plans were reassessed and redesigned, keeping in mind social distancing measures that may have to remain in place if a vaccine for Covid-19 is not widely introduced by this time next year.

"We are eagerly anticipating the creation, production and fair and equitable distribution of a Covid-19 vaccine," Al-Hashimy was quoted as saying at the Fifth Expo 2020 International Participants Meeting (IPM), which ran between 24-27 August 2020.

"However, we are not relying solely on that, as we would do a disservice to the victims of this terrible disease, were we not to learn from what we have endured, and use that knowledge to build a safer, more resilient and more connected future. At Expo we know we need to deliver better than what was planned before."

Work on the expo site has progressed steadily. More than 210 million work hours have been completed on the site and all permanent Expo-led construction is complete.

Expo 2020 - Updates Oct 2020

In a recent announcement, Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority (RTA) said that construction on the majority of roads and transport projects within the Expo 2020 plan has been completed. In July, the 15-kilometre Dubai Metro Route 2020 line was formally inaugurated and is scheduled to start services shortly.

RTA is currently developing 14 stations and bus stops that will serve Expo 2020, and will allocate buses to transport passengers from specific stations in Dubai and the rest of the emirates.

Fit-out, landscaping and construction of country pavilions will conclude at the end of the year. Participants including the Netherlands and Belgium are aiming to complete external works by the end of 2020, and then commence fit-out in 2021.

Expo 2020's Global Best Practice programme recently put out a 'special edition call' for projects that are addressing challenges facing the post-pandemic world. Between September-December 2020, the programme is calling for proposals that feature short and long-term solutions in five key areas: health and wellbeing; water, sanitation and hygiene; education and skills development; protecting livelihoods; and digitalisation.

Recent updates

Luxembourg

According to a recent update from Franz Fayot, commissioner general of the Luxembourg Pavilion, the construction of the pavilion is now 75 per cent complete and will be finished at the beginning of 2021. Work on the interior (scenography, shop, restaurant, etc) will continue throughout spring/summer 2021. The commissioner has also launched a call for volunteers for the pavilion.

A timelapse of construction works on the Luxembourg pavilion between October 2019-September 2020

Thailand

The construction of the Thai pavilion's main structure is now 100 per cent complete, with interior works and exhibition design underway. 

Ajarin Pattanapanchai, commissioner general of section for Thailand pavilion, says: "Even though the coronavirus pandemic has had quite an impact on the preceding work schedule, please rest assured that the Thailand pavilion, with all her elaborate works on decorations and exhibitions, will be completed and packed with excitement to welcome all visitors in 2021."

Austria

The European nation has completed works on the basic structure of its pavilion, marking the end of phase one of construction. Austria’s commissioner general Beatrix Karl said in a statement: "Construction on phase two will last until the beginning of 2021. The exhibits, fittings and furnishings will be installed in plenty of time before the opening."

The overall project is expected to complete by the first quarter of 2021.

Germany

The external structure of the Campus Germany pavilion is nearly complete. Commissioner general Dietmar Schmitz and his team are adapting to the fact that some pavilion plans may have to be adjusted in line with health and social distancing requirements.

“When it comes to our pavilion, we might have to adapt our concept of queuing or how we present our exhibits,” he says. “It will depend a lot on how the pandemic evolves, and on the research and recommendation of experts.”

The finished pavilion will be handed over to operator Koelnmesse in August 2021.

UK

"The pavilion is roughly 50-60 per cent built," according to commissioner general and project director Laura Faulkner. The first part of the structure, which includes the conferencing, VIP areas, F&B spaces and garden is nearly done. The timing of installing the second part – the cone structure – will be announced shortly.

The pavilion is also crowdsourcing a soundscape that will be heard by visitors. Participants can record their sounds and upload them online. These sounds will then be woven together by UK audio design studio Polyphonia.

Most recently, Northern Ireland has announced its collaboration with the UK Department for International Trade to participate in the expo.

Finland

The Finnish expo pavilion Snow Cape is now undergoing structural finishes before it goes into hibernation and resumes interior works in 2021. In the last week of September, the interior wooden 'gorge' received its final touches.

US

The US pavilion is set for completion by November 2020, according to a press statement by US ambassador to the UAE John Rakolta.

“The construction of the pavilion is progressing according to our schedule. We look forward to building completion sometime around November 15," said Rakolta.

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