Expo 2020 unveils key Dubai pavilion as pandemic escalates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Dubai on Saturday unveiled the signature pavilion for the upcoming Expo 2020, the global fair set to open later this year, even as the global pandemic that forced its postponement continues to wreak havoc. rage.

The Terra Pavilion, which features an imposing 130-meter-wide (426-foot) canopy covered with thousands of solar panels, is part of the sheikh’s efforts to rally enthusiasm for the high-stakes exhibit amid the pandemic that has hit its economy. The massive structure, devoted to environmental sustainability, rises from the fairgrounds on the outskirts of the Dubai Desert, where construction workers still scurry around national pavilions in various stages of completion.

Dubai Expo 2020 is expected to attract 25 million visitors and a flurry of business transactions. The event represents a $ 7 billion bet from the city of the United Arab Emirates to boost tourism and international investment. The one-year delay puts even more pressure on the event to boost the service-intensive Dubai economy, which was shaking before the pandemic thanks to a volatile real estate market.

It seems that the organizers are leaving nothing to chance. Saturday’s media tour of the Sparkling Pavilion was tightly controlled, with dozens of press officers asking photographers to only shoot at specific angles that showed the building’s best features and obscured nearby pavilions still covered in scaffolding and clouds of plaster dust.

The Pavilion Terra, which cost more than $ 272 million, is designed to produce as much electricity as it consumes, making it both energy and carbon neutral. It will supply and treat all of its own water, capturing the rain in a vast underground cistern.

The 25,000 square meter pavilion offers immersive experiences of forests and oceans as well as interactive exhibits that guide visitors through the history of environmental decline and the dangers of overconsumption. The vast eruption of temperature-controlled steel and glass is teeming with butterflies, lizards and insects. Thick tufts of reeds lining the building filter the wastewater from the air conditioning for reuse.

While the theme of sustainability may seem at odds with spending billions of dollars on the construction of hundreds of buildings designed to last only the six months of the fair, event organizers insist that the Expo Dubai is different.

“The theme of thinking ahead, thinking about changing our attitudes and being aware of environmental challenges is our number one concern,” said Mohamed al-Ansaari, vice president of communications at Expo 2020.

He noted that 85% of the site’s waste will be diverted from landfills and 80% of new buildings will live after the event as educational centers, residential buildings or offices. The remaining 20% ​​of structures are owned by individual countries which can decide to raze, abandon or recycle their pavilions.

The Terra Pavilion aims to attract 3,000 to 5,000 people a day from next week, its director John Bull said, when it opens with great fanfare even as the coronavirus pandemic reaches unprecedented heights in the United Arab Emirates. Viral countermeasures such as thermal controls, social distancing spots, and hand sanitizer loads are aimed at ensuring safety.

As for the opening of the fair in October 2021, the organizers expressed only their optimism that Expo Dubai becomes one of the first places where the world can come together after defeating the pandemic thanks to the vaccination of mass.

“After months of isolation and uncertainty, this event will be an opportunity to show and motivate solidarity on a human level,” said Reem Ebrahim al-Ashimy, Director General of the Expo and Minister of State emirati responsible for international cooperation.

Meanwhile, the effect of the virus on the entire Expo construction site remains uncertain. Press officers confirmed cases of COVID-19 had been reported among workers, but returned further questions via email. They did not respond to requests for comment about infections or construction-related deaths at the site.

Expo officials also attempted to get journalists to sign forms implying they could face criminal charges for not following their orders, and refused to allow filming of workers in the field.

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