Closing fireworks
A spectacular display of fireworks light up the night sky above the Expo 2020 Dubai venue to mark the closing of the mega global event on Thursday. Image Credit: Courtesy: Shadow Mena/Expo 2020 Dubai

Dubai: Tens of thousands of people gave Expo 2020 Dubai a grand send-off party on Thursday. It was a night of nostalgia, flashbacks, reflection and celebration that showcased how the world’s biggest show has exceeded expectations in the past six months.

The curtains went down and the Expo doors closed for the last time until the early hours the following day. But the legacy of the first World Expo that took place in the region and the largest global gathering since the pandemic that has gathered more than 190 countries from around the world and registered over 23 million visits since it opened in October last year, will continue.

As His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said in a recorded message at the official closing ceremony: “Today is not the end of Expo 2020 but a new beginning.”

Closing Nahyan
Sheikh Nahayan bin Mabarak Al Nahayan, UAE Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, hands over the BIE flag to Jai-chul Choi (centre), President of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) during the Expo 2020 Dubai closing ceremony at Al Wasl, alongside Reem Al Hashimy (left), UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, Dimitri Kerkentzes (second right), Secretary-General of the BIE, the governing body of World Expos, and Wakamiya Kenji (right), Minister for the 2025 World Expo in Osaka, Japan. Image Credit: Supplied

“The UAE and Dubai will continue, God willing, to be graceful and strong — and be able to ‘Connect Minds and Create the Future’ with the exceptional government, and the leadership of my brother Mohammed Bin Zayed, Wassalam”

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, was the chief guest at the ceremony which was attended by a large number of officials and foreign delegates.

Sheikh Mohammed added: “During the Expo 2020 journey, we portrayed to the world a different version of ingenuity that touched the hearts and minds of everyone. Our sons and daughters have proven their ability to overcome unprecedented difficulties and challenges and in every moment of this journey, we reflected the values of the UAE — the values of affection and hospitality.”

The closing ceremony for Expo 2020 Dubai. Image Credit: Courtesy: Mahmoud Khaled/Expo 2020 Dubai

‘UAE doors will remain open’

Sheikh Nahayan Mabarak Al Nahayan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, added during his own speech: “I reiterate that our doors will remain open to everyone. The UAE has, and will always remain a country for all human, so you are welcome here always.”

Sheikh Nahayan also congratulated the UAE and its leadership for successful hosting of the Expo. He said: “From the onset, we promised that Expo 2020 Dubai will be one for the history books … Our experience has been a unique and rich one through which we exchanged ideas and opinions, and shared challenges and accomplishments. We have reached the moment where we reap the fruits of our efforts and created forever memories.”

Fireworks light up the sky above the UAE Pavilion at Expo 2020 Dubai on Thursday night. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

“We have learnt a lot together … We have come together at an extremely difficult time, the likes of which the world has not seen but we have embodied the strength of human will at its fines and made Expo 2020 Dubai a symbol of hope.”

Before his speech, Sheikh Nahayan handed the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) flag to ambassador Jai-chul Choi, president of the BIE General Assembly; and BIE secretary-general Dimitri Kerkentzes, who then presented the flag to representatives of Expo 2025 Osaka.

Choi praised Expo 2020 Dubai as a beacon that reminded the world to navigate global challenges by working together.

Visitors throng the Expo 2020 Dubai site on the closing night on Thursday. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News

Focus on the youth

The official closing ceremony with a strong focus on the youth took place at the iconic Al Wasl Dome. The area was reserved for ‘VIP guests’ made up of school children but more than 20 giant screens were spread across the Expo site, including the main stages, Festival Garden and various country pavilions, that enabled everyone — who were standing shoulder to shoulder — to follow the momentous event.

Organisers were right in saying that it was “a poignant journey back through some of the most evocative and momentous Expo 2020 Dubai moments.”

International celebration

A musical collaboration between UAE-based children’s choir, representing voices from around the world, and the all-female ensemble Firdaus Orchestra, started the night with an exhilarating performance of Ishy Bilady, the national anthem of the UAE. Mira Singh, the 11-year old Indo-Belarusian girl from the opening ceremony, took the audience on another journey reflecting the past, present and future of the UAE and the world. There was also Sea of Nations segment, where flags of over 190 participating nations were displayed, symbolising global solidarity.

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Grammy-winning cellist Yo-Yo Ma gave a stirring performance as stunning display of visuals were projected on the iconic Al Wasl Dome. Grammy-winning singer, songwriter and pianist Norah Jones also performed as well as international pop icon Christina Aguilera, who capped the ceremony with her own rendition of the hit song A Million Dreams.

As she was delivering the final lines of the song — I think of what the world could be/ A vision of the one I see/ A million dreams is all it’s gonna take/ A million dreams for the world we’re gonna make — fireworks lit up the skies over Expo 2020 Dubai.