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EXPO 2020 is almost there… but how much do you really know about World Expos?

When it comes to World fairs also known as World Expos, most of us can reckon the last editions that occurred these previous decades such as Shanghai (China) in 2010 or in Milan (Italy) in 2015.

With EXPO 2020 coming in just a year in the UAE in Dubai (20th October 2020 to 10th April 2021), it is time to learn in more depth the basic questions you have probably asked yourself and haven’t taken time to search for answers.


1. When was the first edition and where?

The very first edition of the World Exhibition was held in The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, London (United Kingdom) in 1851. Also known as The Great Exhibition or “Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations”, it was an idea of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s husband, and is usually considered to be the first international exhibition of manufactured products.

2. How was the World fair created and why?

These expos are are referred to by different names including,  World’s Fair, World Fair, World Expo, Universal Exposition, or International Exposition.

They all are large international exhibitions designed to showcase the achievements of nations. These exhibitions varied in character throughout decades and were held in different parts of the world.

Since the first edition in 1851, the expositions have evolved and it is often said that there were three main periods and purposes with first the era of industrialization, followed by the era of cultural exchange, and the current era, based on nation branding.

3. What are the most famous legacies worldwide that were built for World Fairs?

The video below retraces the important dates and locations related to the World Expos from its beginning until today. It is also interesting to watch as we can actually recognize some landmarks from different Capitals across the World that were built for these Expos.

This includes The ATONIUM in Brussels (built in 1958) that still stands at the exposition site; it is a 165-billion-times-enlarged iron-crystal-shaped building. In Queensland, Brisbane, Australia, THE SKYNEEDLE was the symbol tower of Expo ’88 and it still stands.

The most visited landmark in the world, THE EIFFEL TOWER in Paris (France) was constructed from 1887 to 1889 as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. It has become over time a global cultural icon of France and one of the most recognizable structures in the world.

Both The Grand Palais, Petit Palais, and Bridge Alexandre III were built in Paris as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900.

The bronze-golden metallic Pavillion with dunes shapes was designed by the architect Norman Foster to represent the UAE Pavilion at the 2010 World Expo in China. It was dismantled afterward and rebuilt besides the Manarat Al Saadiyat Cultural Center (until mid 2018).

UAE Pavilion – Shanghai 2010 Credit Image: Abu Dhabi Confidential

4. How often is the World Expo held?

The registered World Expos usually occur every 5 years but there are more in between. They always come with a specific theme such as “Better Cities, Better Life” in 2010 in Shanghai or “Feeding The Planet, Energy For Life” in 2015 in Milan.

5. What is coming next?

Buenos Aires (Argentina) has been selected to host World Expo 2023. Expo 2025 will be held in Osaka (Japan) and the theme of this exhibition is: “Designing Future Society for Our Lives”.

Osaka, Japan

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Expo 2010 ShanghaiExpo 2015 MilanExpo 2020 DubaiEXPO 2020 DUBAI UAEExpo 2025 OsakaHistory of World ExposHistory of World FairsWorld Expo HistoryWorld Fairs History

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