Delayed Expo 2020 unveils key pavilion

2021-01-18 12:04:55

The site of Expo 2020 in Dubai on Saturday. RULA ROUHANA/REUTERS DUBAI, United Arab Emirates-Dubai on Saturday unveiled the signature pavilion for the upcoming Expo 2020, the world's fair that is scheduled to open later this year even as the pandemic which forced its postponement continues to rage. The Terra Pavilion features a towering 130-meter-wide canopy blanketed with thousands of solar panels. It is part of the sheikhdom's push to rally enthusiasm for the high-stakes expo despite the pandemic. The structure devoted to environmental sustainability rises from the fairgrounds on the desert outskirts of Dubai, where construction workers still scurry around national pavilions in various stages of completion. Dubai's Expo 2020 is expected to draw 25 million visitors and a flurry of business deals. The event represents a $7 billion bet to boost international tourism and investment. The yearlong delay puts even more pressure on the event to spur Dubai's service-heavy economy. The Terra Pavilion cost more than $272 million and is designed to produce as much electricity as it uses, making it both energy and carbon neutral. It will supply and treat all of its own water, capturing rain in a vast underground cistern. The 25,000-square-meter pavilion boasts immersive experiences of forests and oceans as well as interactive exhibits guiding visitors through the history of environmental decline and dangers of overconsumption. The eruption of climate-controlled steel and glass teems with butterflies, lizards and insects. Thick clumps of reeds lining the building filter air conditioning wastewater for reuse. "The theme of thinking about the future, thinking about changing our attitudes and being aware about environmental challenges is our number one concern," said Mohamed al-Ansaari, vice-president of communications at Expo 2020. He noted that 85 percent of the site's trash will be diverted from landfills and 80 percent of new buildings will live on after the event as educational centers, residential buildings or offices. The other 20 percent of the structures belong to individual countries that may decide whether to raze, abandon or recycle their pavilions. The Terra Pavilion will open its doors with great fanfare even as the coronavirus pandemic surges in the UAE. Virus countermeasures such as thermal checks, social-distancing squares and loads of hand sanitizers aim to ensure safety. As for the fair's opening in October, organizers have voiced nothing but optimism for Expo Dubai. "After months of isolation and uncertainty, this event will be the opportunity to showcase and motivate solidarity on the human level," declared Reem Ebrahim al-Ashimy, the Expo's director general and the Emirati minister of state for international cooperation. Agencies via Xinhua