The 154th BIE General Assembly will be held in Paris on November 26th and 27th, 2013.On one of those days either Izmir Turkey, Sao Paolo Brazil, Yekaterinburg Russia or Dubai will be selected to host the 2020 World Expo. So, what are Dubai's chances? Izmir is a city that I have never heard of and I doubt that I am in the minority on this. Name recognition, of course, isn't everything, but it has to factor in somewhat. Without knowing anything at all about this city I cannot speculate on its merits or demerits. Turkey, however, is a much better known entity and probably has a lot going for it is a prospective host country. It has got that Europe/Asia thing, presumably straddling two continents. It has got a good measure of democracy and liberalization, albeit with some political tensions, like just about every other place in the world. All-in-all, I would say that Turkey's reputation in the world bodes well for Izmir.
Sao Paolo is probably the most well-known of the four cities in the bidding and Brazil seems to have a lot going for it these days. But with the fact that it has an upcoming Football World Cup and Olympics to add to its laurels, the case has got to made that it is time to spread the love and do a pass on Brazil.
Yekaterinburg seems not only to be a tongue twister--not a good thing--but even more of an unknown quantity than Izmir. Russia, on the other hand has a lot of clout, but I am sure there is also a fair bit of resentment in Western quarters over how Russia has been playing its hand on the world stage. With Putin in the stands, it will not be easy to snub such a vociferous competitor, but I predict that Russia's bark won't presage any bite, and so Russia, too, will get a pass. Like Brazil, Russia has already got an Olympic event in the works--one, too, which has started to shine a light on that country's political gaffs.
My speculation ends with Dubai, which probably has Izmir as its closest competitor. Dubai has got great name-recognition and a can-do reputation. These two factors together, I would say, count for a lot and puts Dubai ahead of all the other cities. On the other hand, like Brazil, Dubai might just have too many good things going for it. Sometimes people are reluctant to add another feather to a cap that already has a few. No doubt Dubai is seen as success story by many who harbor more than an ounce of envy. It becomes easy to shine a spotlight on Dubai's faults in order to take it down an inch. Dubai is not known as a bastion of democracy and its detractors like to speak of things like "slave labor."
And the winner is...
As a long-time expat in the UAE I am not one of those "slave labor" critics, although like every place, Dubai has its faults. The labor divide is one of the things Dubai gets a low grade on, but not a fail. On economics and its can-do spirit, Dubai deserves accolades. On politics, too Dubai does well, but not in the traditional sense. It does well in the sense that no one needs bother with politics in a country where all that really matters is having a job--and everyone's got a job. OK, maybe not everyone, but 98% of the resident population who want to to work, do work. Who cares about politics, voting, choosing leaders, etc. But I don't know if the delegates of the BIE will be as charitable toward Dubai on the question of politics. Perhaps they won't, and in that regard 2020 may well be a toss up between Izmir and Dubai.
That said, I've got my money on Dubai. I mean, how could anyone pass up the chance to see the big show that only Dubai is capable of putting on. There simply won't be any Expo, past or present, like Dubai 2020.
Philosophically, politically, creatively, logistically, Dubai is already coming together to deliver a World Expo that will inspire all who experience it and live long in the collective memory.
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