As the corks popped and the fireworks cracked nearly three years ago when Dubai won the right to stage Expo 2020, some killjoys could be heard wondering what all the fuss was about. After all, the event is only a business fair, isn’t it?

Simon Clegg, the chief operating officer of Expo 2020, has made a career out of organising high-profile sports events, but he feels the weight of history on his shoulders with Expo. Anna Nielsen for The National
Simon Clegg, the chief operating officer of Expo 2020, has made a career out of organising high-profile sports events, but he feels the weight of history on his shoulders with Expo. Anna Nielsen for The National

Simon Clegg, although not there at the time, would not have been among the cynics. “Expo will be the biggest event in the history of the Middle East and North Africa, in terms of the numbers attending,” he says, pointing out that the 25 million visitors expected is bigger than the crowds at the last two Olympics and World Cups combined.

Mr Clegg, who has been the chief operating officer of Expo since March, has made a career out of organising high-profile sports events as big as the 2012 London Olympics, and most recently the European Games in Baku, Azerbaijan.

But he feels the weight of history on his shoulders with Expo. “We’re carrying a burden for delivering something all Emiratis will be proud of. It’s a huge responsibility,” he says, looking out of the window of the Expo headquarters over a vast expanse of levelled sand.

He cites other great exhibitions in history that have seemed to sum up the spirit of the age. “In keeping with the times, Expo this time will be all about cutting-edge technology, along the lines of our motto “connecting minds, creating change”. We need global solutions to global problems, and Expo will help us to find them,” he says.

For the UAE, Expo is a chance to showcase itself to the world just before the 50th anniversary of the founding of the country and to mark the progress the country has achieved in such a comparatively short time. The expectation is enormous. More info

By   www.thenational.ae

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