The United Arab Emirates said Monday that it is considering postponing the October opening of Expo 2020 Dubai — also known as the world’s fair — by a year due to rising concern over the COVID-19 pandemic.
The development will likely delay billions in tourism revenue to the Mideast nation, which has drawn commitments from more than 192 nations and investments from thousands of global businesses for the six-month-long expo showcasing everything from futuristic technology to vast cultural displays.
Just three weeks ago, organizers had told The Washington Times that preparations for the expo to open in October remained “on track.”
That calculus has changed in recent days due to requests made by the expo’s stakeholders around the world, who are dealing with the global public health crisis surrounding coronavirus. Other international events have also recently announced delays, including the 2020 Summer Olympics in Japan, which is being postponed by a year.
“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,” UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy said in a statement shared with The Times Monday.
“The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened,” said Ms. Al Hashimy, who serves as the expo’s director general. She added that organizers “supported the proposal to explore a one year postponement” during a steering committee meeting Monday.
A press release said the delay is now being formally weighed by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the World Expo governing body, which holds the authority over a final decision.
Reuters reported that it had reviewed a draft statement indicating that the expo is set to be postponed. The news agency cited an anonymous source familiar with the matter as saying the formal delay would be confirmed at a later meeting of the BIE.
The UAE hopes that when the expo does occur it will draw as many as 25 million visitors to Dubai.
The UAE’s largest city, which is home to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is reported to have spent near $7 billion preparing for Expo 2020. Construction has been vast and has included a structure known as the Al Wasl dome, billed as the largest 360-degree laser projection surface on earth, and a massive “Star Wars”-esque Sustainability Pavilion, featuring 1,055 solar panels capable of charging more than 900,000 mobile phones annually.