From the folks who brought the world the 24-karat gold iPad, the tallest skyscraper and the first government program that pays citizens to lose weight will come the 2020 World Expo.
Dubai was selected Wednesday by the 168-nation International Expositions Bureau in Paris to host the event, the first Middle Eastern state to stage the world’s fair in its 150-year history.
Jubilant rulers and residents of the tiny Arab emirate set off fireworks, illuminated the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa tower and promised to stage an expo that would “astonish the world.”
“We are immensely proud to have been awarded the honor of hosting World Expo 2020,” Expo committee chairman Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum pronounced in a statement from Paris carried by the United Arab Emirates 24/7 news site under a headline declaring: “Dubai Wins by Far.”
“It was a hard-fought victory; we were up against strong competitors, to whom we offer our full respect and sincere wishes,” the Dubai Expo 2020 team said via Twitter, praising the bids of three other finalists: Izmir, Turkey; Sao Paulo, Brazil; and Yekaterinburg, Russia.
Dubai expects to spend $8.4 billion to stage the six-month event, and officials have projected that the massive building project and tourist influx through 2021 will generate $23 billion, committee officials told the Paris organizers.
Dubai’s per capita GDP is already the 15th highest in the world at $50,000 a year, according to the CIA World Factbook.
The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, opened to opulent fanfare in 2010. A Dubai hotel, the Burj Al Arab, also made headlines this year when it presented each guest with a 24-karat gold iPad upon check-in at the luxury accommodation, where rooms start at $1,525 a night.
But the government spends relatively little on public health services, and a World Health Organization report this year, “The Weight of Affluence,” said half of Dubai’s 5.5 million people are overweight or obese.
That prompted the wealthy emirate government to offer citizens about $20 per pound of lost weight and a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize in the slimming contest.
Dubai spent lavishly on its bid to host Expo 2020, emblazoning its snowflake-like logo on taxis, building facades and shopping bags and sending a national team to plant the UAE flag on the summit of Kilimanjaro.