Dubai: The first World Expo in the Middle East kicked off in Dubai on Thursday night, and the organizers called the exhibition “the grand event of the century.”
The opening ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai was broadcast live in more than 430 locations in the UAE, ranging from airports and shopping malls to hotels and other landmarks.
The event was held in the visually stunning 67-meter-high Al Wasl Dome and featured international music and cultural performances.
“We intended to deliver the event of the century for the country simply because failure was not an option, and we needed to live up to the expectations of Dubai and the UAE,” Tareq Ghosheh, chief events and entertainment officer at Expo 2020 Dubai, told a media briefing before the event.
Exhibitors from nearly 200 countries will participate in the six-month World Expo.
Dubai won the bid to host the event in 2013, making it the first World Expo in the Middle East.
VIPs including the UAE royal family and other dignitaries watched the 90-minute opening ceremony with high-tech performances by UAE performers and international artists.
These include tenor Andre Bocelli; actress, singer, and songwriter Andrade; British singer-songwriter Allie Goulding; pianist Lang Lang; and four-time Grammy Award winner Angelique Kitcho .
“We wanted to make sure that the story we were narrating to the world was quintessentially Emirati, but with a global DNA, and represented the themes of Expo 2020 Dubai through art and technology,” added Ghosheh.
More than 900 actors representing 64 countries including the UAE attended the ceremony.
Kate Randall, Vice President of Ceremonies and Programs for Expo 2020 Dubai, told that the role audition in the opening ceremony will be held in the UAE in March 2021.
“We did around 42 auditions and those who were successful took part in the ceremony. These include both professionals and volunteers who have never performed before.”
The party started with a speech by Sheikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al-Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner-General of Expo 2020 Dubai. He read in Arabic, told the story of the establishment of the UAE, emphasized its belief in unity, innovation and tolerance, and said that the Dubai Expo 2020 also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the UAE.
“We have always strived to create a better life, with our leaders’ vision in mind,” he said. “We have focused on investing in human development, expanding our infrastructure, diversifying our economy, and creating opportunities for everyone to prosper and grow.”
The opening ceremony marked the beginning of one of the largest international events since the outbreak of the global pandemic.
“Our mere presence here, amid all the challenges the world is facing, is proof of our keen commitment and desire to make the world a better place for all,” Sheikh Al-Nahyan added. “By hosting Expo 2020, we aim to convey a message of tolerance and that we are willing to collaborate with all of the world.”
Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together 192 countries for the first time in the 170-year history of the Expo. Under the “one country, one pavilion” policy, each will have its own pavilion representative.
The opening ceremony highlighted the tolerance and hope for the future of the UAE through a dazzling three-act performance directed by Belgian theater director Franco Dragone.
Performers dressed in elaborate costumes and high-tech attractions add to the brilliance.
The protagonist of the performance is Mira, a young Emirati girl, who represents everyone’s hope. Throughout the ceremony, she appeared wearing a long traditional Emirati pink robe decorated with golden jewels.
The ceremony aims to tell the story of mankind and the planet around the theme of Expo 2020 Dubai, “Connecting Thoughts and Creating the Future”. The audience was led by Mira, who talked about the beauty and power of the human spirit and its ability to connect all people and elements in the natural world.
The last scene “Creating the Future” reflects the theme of harmonious life and the opportunity for mankind to create a “perfect garden”.
Bocelli’s moving performance brought an end to the party. As the tenor’s voice echoed around Al Wasl Dome, a luminous tree could be seen rising from the stage, while performers in fine costumes danced triumphantly.
Guests remarked on the emotional power of the performances. “It was so breathtaking, I don’t know what to say,” one could be heard saying as she left the ceremony.
“It was such a feat to pull off; they worked so hard,” said another.