The World's Fair is a 170-year old legacy that has given us the Eiffel Tower, Seattle Space Needle and - perhaps lesser known - Brussels Atomium. However, when the UAE hosts the World Expo2020 later this year, will we be gifted with a new world treasure or another white elephant, asks Juliette Sivertsen

How do you create a brand new city?

A place that will attract 25 million visitors within six months. A hub for the world's greatest innovation and technological feats. A home to representatives from 192 countries around the world. And eventually, home to a million residents.

It sounds like the world's greatest pipe dream - but these are the ideas all coming to life right now, for what's dubbed the world's greatest show.


From October this year, Dubai hosts Expo2020 for six months.

Authorities from Expo2020 are in New Zealand and Australia this week helping build up the hype and contracting ticket resellers.

It will be the largest world fair in history, with 192 countries confirming their participation, including New Zealand. Each country will be set up under one of three themes - Sustainability, Mobility or Opportunity.

Over the course of the six month Expo, over 40,000 New Zealanders are expected to visit, making up the overall estimated visitor numbers of 25 million, of which 70 per cent are predicted to be from outside the UAE.

The dome for Expo2020 has dual projector screens and is big enough to park two jumbo jets inside. Picture / Supplied
The dome for Expo2020 has dual projector screens and is big enough to park two jumbo jets inside. Picture / Supplied

When Dubai was announced as host back in 2013, it was an historic moment for the United Arab Emirates, as it is the first time the Expo is being hosted by an Arab nation.

There are high expectations for the event, which has been around since 1851. Previous world fairs such as France's 1889 Exposition Universelle left us with the Eiffel Tower, still as iconic more than a century on.

And there's usually an innovative new product revealed that will inevitably change the face of the future; past events saw the debut of the television, x-ray machines, the ice-cream cone and even the first mobile phone.

There's little doubt as to whether the wealthy Arab nation can host such a celebration of brilliance. When Expo2020 opens, the main dome at the centre of the space, Al Wasl Plaza, will be big enough to park to A380 jumbo jets in the dome. But once the tourists are gone, what will be left?


The Knowledge City

A 40-minute drive from Dubai, District 2020 is the purpose-built location for Expo2020, which will be later be reconfigured as part of the master-planned city Dubai South, a smart, sustainable city aiming to eventually become home to a million residents and 400,000 job opportunities.

District 2020 promises to be full of innovative and immersive experiences, futuristic thinking and problem solving, and of course Dubai's trademark razzle dazzle. The Expo site itself is about the size of 400 cricket pitches.

After the exhibition, the site will be decommissioned, with some areas - including the New Zealand pavilion - to be dismantled. But much of the concept will remain as it transforms from a visitor experience to a home, with residential and commercial opportunities. From 2022, it will effectively be like a new city.

The accommodation for those working during Expo2020 is to become residential lodging. Eighty percent of the infrastructure will remain, while rest areas, parks and green spaces will all be created to help support residential growth.

The Sustainability Hub will become the Children's Science Centre and the Mobility Hub will become corporate offices.

If any nation is capable of achieving such architectural feats, it's Dubai; home to Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building (until Saudi Arabia's Jeddah Tower knocks it off its perch), Palm Islands, the biggest man-made islands in the world, and Burj Al Arab, the world's first 7-star hotel.

Dubai's capital expenditure into the event is NZ$10.6 billion. Over its six months duration, Expo2020 is expected to increase GDP by 1.5 percent, according to an independent report by Ernst & Young.

Expo2020 authorities believe it's a masterclass in terms of how to do a mega event.

Director of Destination Marketing Sumanthi Ramanathan, describes it as the Olympics of culture, innovation and technology. "It's a celebration of human brilliance," she says. Thousands of trees are also to be lanted, and food waste from the event will be turned into fertiliser. "Our aim is to deliver the world's most sustainable Expo ever," says Ramanathan.

New Zealand, which announced its decision to partake in April 2017, is spending $53.4 million to build its pavilion at the site, inspired by waka taonga under the theme 'Care for People and Place', and comes under the Sustainability zone.

The New Zealand pavilion has been designed by Jasmax architects.

It’s a new year and there are a lot of exciting things happening in 2020 and what better way to kick-off the week with the latest time-lapse from our pavilion. 🤔 What do you think will be inside our pavilion?

Posted by New Zealand at Expo 2020 on Sunday, 5 January 2020

Five things you didn't know began at a World Expo


Three Walt Disney attractions including the tiny amusement ride

It's a Small World

, began as exhibitions at New York's 1964 world fair.

Dinosaurs. Well the dinosaurs were already a thing, but the concept that giant extinct animals roamed the earth was not widely known until an exhibition of "life sized" sculptures were created for the 1852 Crystal Palace world fair in London.

Melbourne Gardens. Melbourne Royal Exhibition Building and Melbourne museum was built as the first world's fair in the southern hemisphere.

The Paris Skyline. Gustave Eiffel's famous tower is perhaps the most recognisable legacy of the world expo. However, seven successive world fairs in the French capital have given it a number of famous sights such as the Grand Palais and the Pettit Palais.

The Olympics. The second Summer Olympic games was held as part of the 1900 Exposition Universelle in Paris. After the success of the Athens games in1896, much of what we recognise as the international sports event today was invented as a side show for the World's Fair.