DUBAI: The United Arab Emirates has officially requested to postpone the start of the Expo 2020 Dubai until October next year due to the coronavirus pandemic, the body that oversees the world fair said Saturday.
Dubai, the glitzy city-state which is part of the UAE, had hoped to attract some 25 million visits to the multi-billion-dollar, six-month event, which was scheduled to launch October 20 this year.
“The government of the United Arab Emirates has formally requested the postponement of World Expo 2020 Dubai,” the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions said in a statement.
“Following consultations with the BIE, participating countries and key stakeholders, the UAE has proposed 1 October 2021 – 31 March 2022 as the new opening dates of Expo 2020 Dubai.”
The UAE government also requested approval to continue using Expo 2020 Dubai as the event’s official name.
The BIE said it would hold a virtual meeting on April 21 to discuss “options for a change of dates”.
“The request of the UAE government has been sent following in-depth discussions by the Expo 2020 Dubai steering committee with the organiser and the BIE on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the statement.
“A final decision on a change of dates can only be made by a two-thirds majority vote of BIE member states.”
Dubai, known for hosting hundreds of conferences annually, has already scrapped a string of cultural and entertainment events in recent weeks over the spread of the deadly disease.
Expo 2020 organisers said on Monday they had recommended a one-year postponement due to the pandemic.
“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,” Expo 2020 Dubai director-general Reem al-Hashimi said in a statement.
“The UAE and Expo 2020 Dubai have listened. And in the spirit of solidarity and unity, we supported the proposal to explore a one-year postponement.”
The UAE has reported 1,505 COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths. It has enforced extensive lockdown measures to curb the spread of the disease including an ongoing nighttime curfew.