World Expo celebrates 170 years since London debut

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The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) will mark 170 years since the first World Expo today, just as Expo 2020 Dubai puts the finishing touches to preparations for its opening in October.

On May 1st, 1851, the Great Exhibition took place in London, housed in the glittering Crystal Palace, becoming the first World Expo ever held.

Now, 170 years later, the UAE will play host to global nations and their people at the next World Expo, the first in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Expo 2020 Dubai aims to drive inspiration, innovation and collaboration at the first megaevent since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic – a global gathering that will bring together more than 200 organisations and nations to inspire action and deliver actionable solutions to real-life challenges.

In another first for World Expos, it will see every nation have its own pavilion under its one nation, one pavilion ethos. In addition, countries will be clustered not by their geography, but under Expo 2020’s three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, depending on their focus – areas seen as essential to building a better future for everyone.

World Expos have introduced to the world some of the items used and enjoyed around the world as part of daily life, including colour television, mobile phones, the zipper and even tomato ketchup.

The longevity and history of these events underscore their importance to their participants, and the generations that follow them.

Since 1851 in London, destinations as diverse as St Louis, Paris, New York, Osaka and Shanghai have played host to visitors from across the world, with Dubai and the UAE now adding its name to that storeyed roll call with its own unique, historic contribution.

Dimitri Kerkentzes, secretary general of the BIE, said: “In 1851, the Great Exhibition celebrated the industrial wonders of a rapidly changing world, creating a new paradigm for global cooperation and progress.

“In the ensuing 170 years, World Expos have marked eras and shaped cities, and have been at the forefront of anticipating global change.”

The BIE – the international governing body of World Expos – was originally created in 1928, with a mission to guarantee the quality of World Expos and protect the rights of their organisers and participants.

Since its creation, the BIE has placed education, innovation and cooperation at the core of all Expos.

Reem Al Hashimy, director general, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “As we mark a truly historic milestone, everyone at Expo 2020 Dubai is extremely proud to be part of the illustrious lineage of World Expos.

“As the first nation in the region to host a World Expo, we cannot wait to add the next chapter to this wonderful history, collaborating on issues of global importance as we invite hundreds of participants and millions of visitors to join the making of a new world.”

Expo 2020 Dubai will run from October 1st to 31 March next year, inviting visitors from every corner of the globe to join the making of a new world, as they discover life-changing innovations that will have a meaningful, positive impact on both people and planet.