Finland takes Expo postponement in stride

28 May 2020
In conversation with Severi Keinälä, commissioner general of Finland for Expo 2020 Dubai
More from Road to Expo:

1. How can participating nations treat the Expo postponement as a positive opportunity?

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. 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.

Finland is coordinating a programme around the themes of circular economy and smart cities, and we are looking forward to working together with other pavilions to develop joint activities in light of the innovations and strategies that will no doubt emerge.

A delay in the commencement of Expo 2020 Dubai presents a silver lining around the dark Covid-19 cloud. The pandemic has had an immense impact on the global economy, and we are seeing recessionary tendencies grow daily.

However, even after a downturn, there will always an upswing and there is a good chance that, by October 2021, the global economy will be well on its way to recovery. This gives Expo 2020 Dubai the opportunity to function as a platform for the beginning of a new era of growth and a meeting point for countries and businesses to establish new contacts and further strengthen old ones.

2. How is the Finnish expo team regarding the Expo postponement?

There is a Finnish concept known as ‘sisu’, which describes our strength of character, perseverance and ability to act rationally in the face of adversity. This would best describe how we, as pragmatic Finns, have taken the situation in our stride. When it became apparent the global situation meant a postponement was inevitable, we refocused our efforts towards the new opening period in October 2021.

Together with our Expo Team, Business Finland, Finland pavilion Steering Committee and 100 partner companies, we continue to evaluate each situation as it arises. Everyone understands the seriousness of the current circumstances, and we are working as a team to ensure our participation is still valuable.

All our partners remain committed to the project and are also readjusting their objectives and activities to fit within the new project scope.

This gives Expo 2020 Dubai the opportunity to function as a platform for the beginning of a new era of growth and a meeting point for countries and businesses to establish new contacts and further strengthen old ones.

3. What will the next steps be since the postponement is confirmed?

As we had already adjusted our activities in accordance with the initial discussions regarding the postponement, the official news does not alter anything else for us as we are already well underway with our new focus.

Naturally, the postponement has had an impact on construction activities. We will take pavilion construction as far as the final surfaces, ensuring the structure is weatherproof, and when we resume construction activity next year, elements such as the exterior cladding, interior painting and fit-out will be finished. This will allow us to maintain the building's health throughout the extension period and ensure we showcase a fresh pavilion to visitors in October 2021.

In terms of staffing, we will reallocate roles for the Finland at Expo 2020 team within the wider Business Finland network. The team will then reunite once we are ready to proceed with the planning phase.

4. What do you foresee will be the impact of a postponement on pavilion partners and volunteers?

We have over 50 participating partners made up of 100 compaines. We are already witnessing a significant global shift to the way businesses operate and communicate, resulting in changes to their objectives and strategies. Consequently, our partner companies must reevaluate their Expo 2020 Dubai strategy to ensure it aligns with their new business outlook.

Many of our partner companies are aiming to enhance awareness of their brands within the GCC and establish a presence. On the other hand, those who already have a presence in the region will be using the Expo platform to strengthen their existing partnerships and of course forge new relationships. This additional time will allow extra groundwork to be carried out in preparation.

Our pavilion guides (volunteers) will be students selected as they near the end of their higher education and will be chosen from various Finnish schools. The initial intake of students will already have graduated by next year, so we will restart the recruitment process this year and training will take place in 2021.

5. Is Business Finland offering any support/guidance for visitors from Finland, who may have pre-booked their tickets and hotels for the Expo?

As far as we are aware, very few people in Finland have pre-booked their tickets for Expo. If we are approached by any visitors from Finland who require support or guidance, we are of course here as a support to work with them to find acceptable solutions.

Some of our partner companies have made bookings for hotels, but I have full confidence in their ability to make adjustments as required.

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