Dimitri S. Kerkentzes, seen at the Opening Ceremony of Expo 2020 Dubai last year

Congratulations on Expo 2020 Dubai crossing 20 million visitors! With the six-month global event having drawn to a close, how unique, in your eyes has the experience of hosting the first World Expo in the Middle East been?

Expo 2020 Dubai is for me a fabulous collective accomplishment. From the moment the Bureau International des Expositions received the letter of candidature to organise the first World Expo in the Middle East, this bold endeavour has brought forth new energy, new ideas and new forms of cooperation.

The journey towards Expo 2020 Dubai saw a record 192 countries work together, with a shared purpose, to improve lives and to build a better future for all humanity. The road we have travelled together has had its share of hurdles, yet through solidarity and perseverance, we were all able to carry on, with an enlivened spirit, in the creation of a unique and exceptional celebration of progress.

Expo 2020 Dubai is the demonstration that hope and optimism combined with determined cooperation have the power to unleash the best of humanity and the most beautiful creations for a better tomorrow. Expo 2020 Dubai has reminded us of our unlimited potential and more than this, it has shown us the way forward and encouraged each and every one of us to dare to dream.

What are the chief takeaways from Expo 2020 Dubai for the BIE?

Expo 2020 Dubai has shown the whole world that when given the opportunity to (re)connect, people are eager and willing to engage in meaningful dialogue and to work together in the construction of a better future. Above all else, the Expo 2020 Dubai journey has demonstrated that whatever the context, World Expos have a unique power to gather people and nations in a collective and forward-looking endeavour for human progress.

In itself, Expo 2020 Dubai, with its cultural programmes, theme weeks, public activities and high-level visits, has created a multitude of connections between people, countries and ideas. Addressing the greatest challenges facing the planet, everyone involved in the Expo has driven collective action and demonstrated solidarity and optimism in creating a better future. Participating countries have been highly engaged, taking part in World Majlis sessions and organising their own virtual and in person events to maximise reach. This type of joined-up collaboration and engagement – made more accessible by digital connections – has shown to be one of the most positive outcomes of Expo 2020 Dubai.

Hosting the World Expo in the midst of the pandemic was a tough ask but it seems to have paid off. What were the main challenges for the BIE in taking this call and how do you rate the success of this edition of the Expo, keeping the aftereffects of the pandemic in mind?

In light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the multiple challenges it raised, Expo 2020 Dubai emerged as a unique occasion to reinforce global solidarity and to address challenges faced by all countries. The decision to postpone Expo 2020 Dubai by one year, and to persevere in its organisation despite the uncertainty of the pandemic, was one that was made jointly between the Government of the UAE, Expo Organisers, and all International Participants. By moving as one, all stakeholders ensured that Expo 2020 Dubai became a platform to build, with renewed optimism and hope, a transformed world.

In a world still reeling from Covid-19 and associated restrictions, Expo 2020 Dubai has been a global reawakening; a gathering of people, ideas and solutions that shows unbowed optimism in the future. The UAE’s robust and agile response to the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai’s health protocol and the collective responsibility of all participations and stakeholders ensured that Expo 2020 Dubai has been a major success.

Expo 2020 Dubai has also been projected as the most technologically advanced World Expo in history. How do you feel this has helped World Expos as a brand to align with the requirements of a new breed of visitors and Expo fans such as the millennials?

All visitors to Expo 2020 Dubai were left impressed with the technological marvels in the pavilions, around the site, and built into every aspect of the Expo experience. Not only for the millions of visitors, but for country representatives and business delegations, the Expo has shown a glimpse of a future where technology improves lives and serves all of humanity. Even those accustomed to new technologies found a solution, an innovation or a new idea that opened doors to new possibilities and the promise of greater inclusivity, comfort, and potential for all.

In an increasingly connected and fast-paced world, World Expos play an essential role in sharing practices and fuelling global debates. While we cannot predict what awaits us in the coming years; we can only address complex and interconnected challenges through modern and inclusive multilateralism based on common values and shared responsibilities. World Expos offer this platform to showcase, explore and discover solutions to these challenges; and while many of these use the latest technologies, many others are strikingly simple, showing that progress is not uniquely dependent on technological change.

How do you see the success of Expo 2020 Dubai playing a role in making the UAE and other Middle East countries prospective hosts for future World Expos?

Hosting a tremendous World Expo in this dynamic and fast-growing region is a strong symbol of the power of unity and connection. For the UAE and the Middle East, the opportunities and human potential created by Expo 2020 Dubai are clear to all, and I am certain that this momentum will play a lasting role in rebalancing the economy towards fairer, more sustainable, and more inclusive growth.

This interest sparked by Expo 2020 Dubai across the region is already remarkable. It has shown the demonstrable benefits of organising an Expo for the host city and host country, and it has revealed the curiosity, the imagination and the excitement of residents for such a global gathering. I am certain that Expo 2020 Dubai will serve as a shining example that will inspire others.

Please share a personal message in your capacity as Secretary General of the BIE to Dubai and UAE Leaders, the Expo 2020 Dubai Committee, as well as UAE and world citizens, on the successful completion of the event.

Faced with the scale of challenges that lie before us, whether in terms of protecting the planet, expanding opportunities, improving inclusivity or promoting dialogue, Expo 2020 Dubai has shown that cooperation is not just possible but essential.

This unforgettable World Expo has gathered individuals, nations and organisations in one venue to shed light on the world of possibility that awaits future generations, and to help give today’s children the tools to shape a better tomorrow.

During this tumultuous period, Expo 2020 Dubai has been a beacon to remind us all that to navigate common challenges, we must join together and work in unison. The realisation of this unforgettable World Expo is thanks to the vision of the Leadership of Dubai and the UAE, and the joint efforts of all those who contributed to making it such as success.

The Expo may have closed on March 31, but the spirit of Expo 2020 Dubai will persist, having a positive impact on lives here in Dubai, and all around the world.