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The year, marking the title of the long-awaited yet postponed world exhibition, which was supposed to be already halfway through at this time in Dubai, is nearly over. despite the fact that due to the COVid-19 pandemic this event has been postponed for an entire year and will take place from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, it will still be referred to as EXPO 2020. And although time has frozen in the title of the enormous international event, it continues to flow at its own pace in real life, bringing new challenges.

Organisers of the event waited long years for their opportunity to host the first EXPO in the region and did not sit on their hands even in the face of the unprecedented pandemic. For the past nine months they reacted to the constantly changing situation like true professionals. The works at the construction site did not halt for a single day, except for several nights, when the entire territory was disinfected. Concerns regarding the health of the construction workers resulted in isolating everyone that belong to a high risk group, a mass testing centre built right there on the site, as well as a constantly available COVID-19 helpline. Thus, Dubai is ready to welcome guests from all over the world – the new roads and a new Dubai Metro line, connecting the city centre with the exhibition site, located a dozen kilometres away, also a campus for the participants (EXPO village), the enormous exhibition complex and the major thematic pavilions are already completed.

More than half of the staff, coordinating the works in the future event is back to working from their dedicated offices onsite, instead of their homes. More and more administration staff should return to work to their offices every month until the entire EXPO team is eventually ready to greet the first visitors of the event on 1 October 2021. From mid-January until the end of April, selected visitors and the Expo community will be able to take a look at the completed and furnished thematic pavilions (of course, with no hindering of the other on-going pavilion constructions): Terra (Sustainability pavilion), Alif (Mobility pavilion, named after its talisman, enabling humans to reach anything – from the depths of the Earth to the farthest space) and Mission Possible (Opportunity pavilion). The final pilot visits of the entire exhibition with full-operations set to are planned for 1, 4 and 24 September.

The EXPO team, taking care of a safe and comfortable experience for everyone, is working to ensure as many visitors as possible (the expected number is as many as 25 million visits), organising one advertising campaign after another, featuring global celebrities. Quite recently, the organisers succeeded in hiring the Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan, who, by the way, played one of the main roles in Hollywood’s movie The Great Gatsby, thus being an excellent lure both to South Asian market and the rest of the world.

Seeking to connect minds and create a different future, the organisers continue their very close cooperation with participants and partners, being most aware than ever that solving collective challenges, posed by our time, is impossible if you are alone. The most important partners are, of course, the participants of the exhibition. Finland, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and the USA have practically completed their pavilions with Japan, France, Italy, Germany and other countries close behind. The majority of the participants have left exterior decoration and installation of the inside exhibitions for the upcoming year.

Lithuanian pavilion nearly completed too

The first part to be completed was the wooden façade, produced by Jūrės Medis and brought from Lithuania, featuring stylised openwork window shutters (Lithuania – a state that is open to the world). This was followed by the modern solar power station with panels, produced at SoliTek – one of the most advanced companies in the field in Northern and Central Europe. The territory will later include special decorative elements – interactive outdoor furniture, also produced by a Lithuanian company Girios Medis.

The interior exhibition design is also approved and its production has already begun. The winner of the tender is a well-known Lithuanian exhibition company Mart Pro, implementing the project Kinetic Tree of Innovation, while the transparent glass screens with the content will also be supplied by a Lithuanian company Tikras Vaizdas. The pandemic ‘roller-coaster’ has slightly halted the selection of the national kitchen and the operator of the sales of Lithuanian goods, but some of the highlights are already clear – the pavilion guides and the sales and catering staff will wear uniforms, designed by Jolanta Rimkutė of Mados Studija LT, the pavilion will be decorated with graphic works by another designer – Aurimas Švedas from Kaunas and unique glass works by the artist Remigijus Kriukas from Panevėžys.

Growing event calendar

The content of the world EXPO features not only numerous exhibitions – static or kinetic, yet usually unchanging for the entire half of the year, but also thousands and even dozens of thousands of all kinds of official and entertainment events. Some of them are planned at the multifunctional space of the Lithuanian pavilion, which will feature conference equipment, supplied by the Lithuanian company Konferenta and furniture from Narbutas Lietuva, which produces furniture for the rest of the pavilion spaces, except for the exposition itself, and has already began the manufacturing process. Expo organisers host various scientificpractical conferences on all kinds of topics, ranging from space to climate, biodiversity and tolerance, which have been taking place for the past few months online, thus building a strong foundation for live events that will take place during the Expo. Meanwhile, the most important and most memorable events, besides the world EXPO opening and closing ceremonies, are, of course, the national days of the state-participants. According to the new calendar, Lithuania’s National day will take place on 22 October 2021. Although a coincidence that the following days (23 and 24 October) will be marked as the Special days of the European Union and the United Nations, it will become another excellent opportunity for us to introduce Lithuania as a European state, open to the entire world and active in the international arena.

Rescheduling of the future EXPOs

To finish this report – some news from the General Assembly of the Bureau of International Exhibitions in Paris (the Assembly, of course, took place online). The bad news is that the international Expo 2023, which was supposed to take place between two World Expos (in Dubai and Osaka) in Buenos Aires (Argentina) in 2023 is cancelled due to economic difficulties. It is a pity, because Argentina’s candidacy became doubtful as soon as it was confirmed – during the voting, the country easily defeated the unprepared USA, but was only a few votes ahead of Poland, which very enthusiastically fought for the victory. Should they have won, our neighbours would have been unlikely to let this achievement out of their hands so easily. However, later Poland was offered to host a horticultural EXPO 2024 (horticultural exhibitions take place every two or three years and are very similar to the international Expos). Unfortunately, this opportunity was postponed to at least until 2029, as the shifted date in Dubai postponed the horticultural EXPO, which was supposed to take place in 2021–2022 in Doha (Saudi Arabia) to 2023-2024 to avoid a clash with the World EXPO, which will take place in UAE in 2021–2022, while the year of 2027 has already been promised to Yokohama (Japan). The good news is that only a couple of days after the above-mentioned Assembly officially registered the World EXPO 2025 in Osaka, Japan’s Government sent out official invitations to the event all over the world, urging the states to make the decision regarding their participation before the beginning of the EXPO 2020, i.e. the upcoming autumn. It is already becoming clear, which countries will be hoping to invite others to the World EXPO in ten years – Russia (Moscow) and South Korea (Busan) have already declared their candidacies for EXPO 2030 during the same General Assembly.

Romas Jankauskas

Head of the Exhibitions division at the Ministry of Environment of the Republic of Lithuania,
Commissioner General of the Lithuanian section at the EXPO 2020 Dubai

Article from magazine JURA