×

The highly anticipated Expo Dubai is expected to be postponed by one year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

A formal announcement about the world fair — which showcases the arts, business and technology — is expected shortly, following meetings between U.A.E. officials and representatives of 192 participating countries.

On Monday, the event’s steering committee convened a virtual meeting and discussed the possibility of a one-year delay.

Reem Al Hashemy, U.A.E. Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai said: “While they remain firmly committed to Expo 2020, many countries have been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and they have therefore expressed a need to postpone the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai by one year, to enable them to overcome this challenge. The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, we supported the proposal to explore a one-year postponement at today’s Steering Committee meeting.”

The final decision on postponement rests with World Expo governing body Bureau International des Expositions (BIE). A date change requires a two-third majority vote from the organization’s member states and the BIE is moving forward to start the process.

BIE Secretary General Dimitri S. Kerkentzes said: “Today’s agreement by the organiser and the members of Expo 2020 Dubai’s steering committee to explore options for a one-year delay to the opening of the World Expo is welcome.”

“The U.A.E.’s decision to support a one-year postponement demonstrates pragmatism, openness, and commitment to delivering an Expo that lives up to our shared ambition. We retain full confidence in the U.A.E.’s ability to host a World Expo that inspires and delights millions, when the time is right.”

The event was due to kick off in October and conclude in April 2021. Al Wasl Plaza, the heart of the Expo Dubai site, was inaugurated in January.

The event, the budget for which is in the billions, was expected to attract 25 million visitors, according to organizers.

A range of events, built around the themes of opportunity, mobility and sustainability had been planned. The opportunity pavilion was to highlight solutions to social problems; the mobility pavilion on advances in digital communication and smarter movement of goods, ideas and knowledge; and the sustainability pavilion was to explore alternative sources of food, water and clean and renewable energy.

From an arts and culture perspective, Brussels-based visual arts curator Tarek Abou El Fetouh was putting together a program that explored the ideas of 10th-century Arab scientist and philosopher Ibn al Haytham from a contemporary point of view.

In addition, Indian Oscar, BAFTA and Grammy-winning composer A.R. Rahman (“Slumdog Millionaire”) was due to build the Firdaus Studio, a state-of-the-art recording studio at the Expo site that would remain standing after the event. He was also announced as a mentor and composer for the Firdaus Women’s Orchestra.

The Expo is located on a 4.38 square-kilometer site adjacent to Dubai’s Al Maktoum international airport.