A few reasons for Dubai Expo 2020 bid to succeed


Dubai is bidding to host the 2020 World’s Fair. A successful bid would raise Dubai GDP growth by ~0.5ppt between 2016-2019 and by ~2ppt in 2020 / 21, estimates Bank of America.  The World Expo 2020 host city will be named on November 27th.

What is an Expo?

World Fairs have been held regularly since the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, although their purpose has shifted from being a showcase of industrial design to a means of city or nation building. In this respect, there is thus a similarity of objectives with would-be hosts of international sporting events like the Olympics and FIFA World Cup.

World Fairs were predominantly held in Europe and North America for much of the past 160 years, although Expos have been held eight times in Asia / Australia since 1970. Since 2005, world expositions have been held every five years. The next Expo will be held in Milan, Italy, in 2015, with the theme “Feeding the planet, Energy for Life”.  Until not, no World Expo was hosted in the Middle East and the wider MENA region.

Who decides the winning bid?

The Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions (BIE) is an intergovernmental organisation that was set up in 1928 to supervise international exhibitions. Host cities are decided by a secret ballot at the BIE’s General Assembly. 163 nations are members of the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions (BIE). The US has not been a member since 2001. Each BIE country member has one delegate who has one vote. A city needs >50% of votes to win.

The BIE also sanctions smaller expositions, or Specialised Expositions, which have narrower themes. The last Expo was such an event – held in Yeosu, South Korea, in 2012.

Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid

Dubai Expo 2020 bid is themed “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future” and would be a first Expo in the Middle East, South Asia and Africa region. The Dubai Expo 2020 is planned to run in the peak tourism months of October 2020 until April 2021 and will be located in a 168ha site within the Dubai Trade Centre – Jebel Ali free zone. The site is equidistant to the centres of Dubai and Abu Dhabi and is adjacent to Dubai World Central, the lesser known airport which will open for passenger services next month and is designed to ultimately replace Dubai’s current international airport (DXB).

The competition

Technically, a national government bids on behalf of a city. The UAE is competing against three countries which have all recently bid – and two successfully – for upcoming Olympics.

  • Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, is bidding to host Russia’s first word’s fair. Russia is hosting the Winter Olympics in 2014 and the World Cup in 2018.
  • „Izmir, Turkey, previously bid to host Expo 2015 but lost to Milan. Turkey (Istanbul) was one of three short listed bidders to host the 2020 Olympics.
  • „Sao Paulo, Brazil, is bidding to host Expo 2020, four years after Rio hosts the 2016 summer Olympics and six years after Brazil hosts next year’s football World Cup.

In conclusion, the success of Dubai Expo 2020 bid looks very much probable mainly due to the fact that no other event of such magnitude  was ever hosted in the Middle East. In addition, with its already developed infrastructure Dubai can provide better facilities than the rest of the competitors.


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