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November 19, 2020

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US unveils Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion

The United States showed off a literally star-studded pavilion yesterday for Dubai’s upcoming Expo 2020, complete with a replica SpaceX rocket body beside it.

Two fog machines swirled smoke around the replica, trying to lend the impression it just landed at the still under-construction Expo site in Dubai’s southern desert. But what will be a major draw at this world’s fair remains in question as the world struggles through the coronavirus pandemic and global air travel, a key industry for Dubai, struggles to take off.

Dubai’s Expo 2020, or world’s fair, represents a US$7 billion bet by this sheikhdom in the United Arab Emirates that the event will boost tourism and business interest. The pandemic forced organizers to delay the start of the event by a year to October 1, 2021 — putting even more pressure on the expo to turn around Dubai’s economy, which was struggling even before the virus.

That extra time came in handy for countries participating in the event, particularly the US. America struggled to come up with funding for its pavilion and ended up relying on what it called “the generosity of the Emirati government” to cover its estimated US$60-million cost. The pavilion’s exterior appeared finished yesterday, but its interior remained a worksite.

John Rakolta, the US ambassador to the UAE, made a point to repeatedly praise the Emirati government for its donation, without offering a figure for the final cost. Asked if that Emirati donation would influence what the US displayed, Rakolta called the UAE “open” and “inclusive.”

“They’ve encouraged us to reach for the stars,” he said.

The 3,344-square-meter pavilion will include a “24-minute experience” of America with moon rocks, a Mars rover and Thomas Jefferson’s Quran, Rakolta said.


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