Dubai: There was tangible excitement in the air on Tuesday when the world’s media got to take a first glimpse around Dubai’s Expo 2020 site as part of this week’s 365-day countdown celebrations.
Vast roads and infrastructure leading into the Dubai South site are complete and entire ‘petal’ walkways which peel off from the massive central Wasl Plaza dome and out to massive steel arch entrance gates are not just finished but also fully decored with water features and ghaf tree foliage.
192Number of countries confirmed to participate in Expo 2020 Dubai
These green and airy paths will connect visitors to three themed districts dubbed ‘sustainability, mobility and opportunity’, where the main structures within each of these districts are taking shape and look on course for an expected end of year completion deadline.
There will also be a further seven months until July of next year for 192 nations to complete their own pavilions, which will showcase each country’s heritage and culture, making this Expo a truly global affair as it’s the first time in the event’s 168-year history that each country gets its own pavilion.
As soon as we stepped off the bus and into the main area, which is two square kilometres, you are met with an awe inspiring slanted spaceship-like structure called Terra (Latin for Earth).
This is the heart of the sustainability pavilion and its 130-metre wide canopy will harness energy from the sun through 1,500 solar panels to produce four Gigawatt hours per year, enough to power a small electric car halfway to Mars.
As well generating this electricity to power the site during the day, the canopy will also collect moisture from the air at night to produce 22,000 litres of water a day. Within this there will be interactive walkthroughs of various ecosystems before the visitor is confronted with their own impact on the environment, leading to a hopeful legacy of change in human behaviour.
Seen from the road it strikes an imposing form that along with the Wasl Plaza dome opposite, will surely come to define this Expo.
25millionnumber of Expo 2020 visitors expected, 70 per cent from outside UAE
We took the short walk through the walkway lined with metal plume-like light features towards the central dome then took a lift to the roof of a building beside it to view its gigantic trellis frame from above.
Named after the Arabic word for connection ‘Wasl’, which was the original name for Dubai, this central structure covers an area of 16 tennis courts and at 130 metres wide it can fit two A380s wing to wing at its base. It towers to 67.5 metres high and weighs as much as 500 elephants.
The dome will also become the world’s largest projection surface once complete, able to be viewed by those inside looking up at the ceiling and even those passing overhead on planes.
Only country pavilions could be dismantled with each country having the choice of relocating their facility later.
Like the 02 Arena in London, which was built as the Millennium Dome, this structure will continue to be used on site in this location as a live entertainment venue, following the trend of 80 per cent of the structures here, which will remain on site indefinitely even after the six month Expo, from October 2020 to April 2021, is over.
Between sporadically placed country pavilions there will also be over 200 food and beverage outlets, interspersed with 30,000 volunteers on hand to help you find your way.
2sq kmArea of the main area, with an additional 2.4-square kilometre supporting area
Mobility, UAE Pavilion and secrets
From the top of the viewing gallery beside the dome we were also able to look down across to the Mobility Pavilion, a 4,368 square metre space that can accommodate 2,500 visitors an hour. Here visitors will be inspired by everything that gets people, goods, ideas and data to move, learning about the UAE’s history as a transport hub to its future mission to Mars.
On the other corner of the dome is the UAE pavilion, a 15,000 square metre structure made to mimic the sight of a falcon at rest with hydraulic wings that will harvest clean energy.
Not everything however was open to discussion during our tour.
38,000number of companies registered with the Expo 2020 Dubai
Much of what will go on in the Opportunity District is still under wraps and then there remains an intriguing secret project, which cannot be revealed until next year. It looks very much like a Roman Amphitheatre or coliseum type stadium, too small to enhouse sport, but large enough to encircle speeches or performances. For now though we can only guess as to what it’s real purpose might be.
Area: 2-square km square main area with 2.4-km square supporting area
What could it be?
Expo 2020 Tour staff were sworn to secrecy over what one particular structure would be.
It looks like a Roman Amphitheatre or coliseum-type stadium, too small to enhouse, but large enough to encircle speeches or performances.