Dubai’s Heart Beats in the Rhythm of the World ExpoOn 31 January, Dubai marked the opening of Al Wasl Plaza – the main building of the world EXPO 2020. Upon opening the structure, which represents the 4000-year-old ring, unearthed by archaeologists in the desert sand, the JAE Sheikhs Mohammed bin Rashid and Mohammed bin Zayed referred to it as the ’beating heart of Dubai‘, which will gather representatives from 192 countries for a half a year of communication. Lithuania is one of these countries and its participation at the World Expo events is organised by the Ministry of Environment. The construction of the Lithuanian pavilion has already commenced.
We have discussed the preparations for the event under the theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ with Romas JANKAUSKAS, Commissioner General of the Lithuanian pavilion at the World EXPO 2020.
‘Mr Jankauskas, there’s only eight months left until the opening of the exhibition. You have recently visited Dubai. What are your latest impressions? What is the current look of the Expo site? What changes have you noticed since 20 October last year, when UAE hosted the grand and glamorous ‘One Year to Go’ celebration?’
‘The number of cranes, bulldozers, workers and construction debris on the site has increased. But the fair’s landscape keeps growing: some pavilions are already engaged in roofing works (e.g. Finland), our Expo neighbours – Slovenia and Sweden – are laying foundations (as we do too), yet the objects, built by the organisers of the event, like the already-mentioned Al Wasl Plaza or the thematic pavilions and the Expo village, are the closest to completion.’
‘You have participated at the meeting of the Steering Committee, where you have been elected for the fourth time, while during the previous Expo event in 2017, you had even led it. What are the current issues of the world Expo organisers? Will the extreme situation due to the threat of the coronavirus, declared by the World Health Organisation, have an impact on this event?’
‘This time the Committee that you have mentioned is currently chair by my colleague from Switzerland. It consists of representatives of approximately thirty states. Aside from the already-mentioned Switzerland, other European members of the Committee include representatives from Czech Republic, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Serbia and the United Kingdom. The majority of the issues repeat in all of these events, including logistics, queues at the pavilions, commercial activity, welcoming the VIPs, the conditions of working and living on the site (the Expo village), financial support for the participants in need, etc. However, some issues are very specific to this particular event. One of them includes the safety of the participants in this rather sensitive region, particularly keeping in mind the January events in Iraq and Iran. Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of State for Tolerance of the United Arab Emirates and Commissioner General of the EXPO 2020, ensured that Dubai is absolutely safe and there will be no military or political threats to the event. The same has been very clearly established by other organisers of the fair during informal conversations too. Natural disasters, such as the coronavirus outbreak, currently shaking the world, is a different story. For example, this meeting could not be attended by the Commissioner of the Chinese pavilion due to cancelled flights, while countries that are using equipment or materials from Chinese suppliers are already experiencing delays too. The organisers of the event are taking all the necessary precautions, but there is no guarantee regarding possible outcome to this day. Worst case scenario – it will reduce the number of the visitors or even participants, but this event used to encounter various obstacles before as well (e.g. the volcano eruption in Iceland caused a number of problems in preparing for the World Expo in Shanghai in 2010). What we can do is be prepared and wish for the best.’
‘The celebration of one year to go to EXPO 2020 also marked the official ground-breaking ceremony of the constructions on the Lithuanian Expo site. What has already been done there since then?’
‘There is still much to be done on the site. As I have already mentioned, just like the neighbouring Slovenian or Swedish pavilions, we‘re just laying the foundation, but intensive works are already taking place elsewhere too, such as the production of the metal constructions, assembling the construction materials and equipment. The Lithuanian company Jūrės Medis has already started working on the wooden part of the pavilion, while Solitek in Vilnius – on the solar batteries. The Lithuanian furniture company Narbutas has already begun manufacturing the furniture needed for the pavilion. By the way, another Lithuanian furniture company – Dominari – has been struck by success too: the organisers of the event informed us that this company has won the tender of supplying furniture for the Expo village.
Aside from the building, we are also taking care of the ‘soft’ part of the participation as well: we have already announced tenders for the concept of the main exposition hall, the operator of the cafeteria and the souvenir shop, and the guides of the pavilion. We are also working on the cultural and official event programme.’
‘Last year marked the opening of the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in the UAE. Among other goals, it has also been appointed with the task of taking an active part in Lithuania’s preparations for EXPO 2020. How has it been going with the newly-established embassy?’
‘The fact that the participation at the world EXPO 2020 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, coincided with the establishment of the Lithuanian Embassy in this country is very pleasant and significant. The Embassy has already finished settling in a cosy building in Abu Dhabi, approximately 130 kilometres from the Expo site. Edminas Bagdonas, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, invited representatives of the Lithuanian community in the UAE for the first glass of wine already on the eve of 16 February – the Restoration of Lithuania’s statehood, while the 30th anniversary of the Restoration of Lithuania’s Independence on the eve of 11 March is expected to be attended by our Minister of Foreign Affairs. This will mark the end of all the issues, related to the Embassy’s opening, and the start the daily operations. Although the Embassy is befittingly established in the country’s capital, it seems that for the half a year of the Expo, all roads will be taking to Dubai, which will become as if the second capital of the UAE. Together with the Ambassador we are already discussing the celebration of the National Day at the World Expo in Dubai, which is planned for 11 March 2021, also prospective governmental and business meetings, as well as cultural and scientific events.’
‘Thank you for the conversation’.
Interviewed by Zita Tallat-Kelpšaitė
Article from magazine JURA