Live Blog: Expo 2020 - Voting Day - Gulf Business
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Live Blog: Expo 2020 – Voting Day

Live Blog: Expo 2020 – Voting Day

Bringing you the announcement as it happens and live comments from our team at The Capital Club.



All that is left to say is well done to the UAE and the entire Dubai Expo 2020 bid committee and delegation. And commiserations to the runners up from Ekaterinburg, Russia.

We’re signing off from the Gulf Business towers, thanks for joining us this evening to witness one of those “where were you” moments.

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We’ll leave you with some incredible shots of the Burj Khalifa. If you’re in Dubai right now, we fancy there may be a party happening somewhere near you.

Good night.

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Dom Ellis, editor of sister title Business Traveller Middle East has spoken to Mark Beer, registrar for DIFC courts, who has called Dubai’s victory a ‘game changer’ for the Middle East.

“I’m on cloud nine! It’s the culmination of months of effort; Dubai and the UAE are on the map,” he said.

“This will redefine the way people view, and invest in, the Middle East. It is a tectonic shift.”


Features editor, Rob Anderson says The Capital Club erupted on the news of Dubai’s victory.

“Albasheer [CEO, Inbound LLC] tells me he is very happy Dubai has won and he expects success to help his business in supporting entrepenurs and SMEs.

“I never had any doubt” he says, “but you always wait for the announcement to be certain.”



Our team has reported scenes of jubilation at The Capital Club.

Alicia Buller, editor, said: “We did it! All the faith, hope and sheer bravado surrounding the Dubai bid was well placed.

“The hundreds of stories we wrote about ‘if’ we win the Expo, now become ‘what next’ and ‘how’. Without exaggeration, this is the next leap in Dubai’s short but profuse journey.

“And, yes, for those of you that read my monthly Editor’s letter, I won’t have to eat my beach hat after all. See.”



That’s it, it’s all over, Dubai and the UAE have done it! In the year 2020, the emirate will host one of the most important and biggest events in the world. A milestone moment for the 42-year old country.

Fireworks have lit up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. I think it’s fair to say every person in Dubai has a smile on their face right now.

Dubai has won the rights to host the World Expo 2020!

Dubai secured 116 votes to beat the Russian city of Ekaterinburg.


Over 100 votes have been cast…


70 votes have been cast in round three. We are very, very close to finding out who will win the rights to host the 2020 World Expo. Don’t go anywhere.


Alicia Buller, editor of Gulf Business: “The Capital Club is buzzing; for the first time in seven years, I’m seeing some genuine universal, multicultural spectator participation in Dubai.”


The third and final round of voting is underway in Paris. We’re almost there…


As you can see below, Dubai picked up 52.7 per cent of the second round vote. Russia took 24.8 per cent with Izmir securing 21.8 per cent.



Izmir has been eliminated, Dubai is into the final round of voting.

Dubai picked up 87 votes.


More than 135 votes have now been cast. We’ll know the results of round two very shortly.

Editor Alicia Buller has grabbed Raza Jafar, CEO and founder of Enshaa, who says: “If we do win, we will need to establish more training centres and hospitality schools for the new hotels and increased visitors.

“I feel that we will win… But it won’t be a disaster if we don’t. There will be many opportunities to showcase Dubai to the world.”

Features editor Rob Anderson meanwhile has been speaking to Walied Albasheer, CEO, Inbound LLC, who says Dubai has been outstanding in a number of industries including logistics and aviation, while the city’s infrastructure is already in place.

While he says “you can never be 100 per cent” on winning, he believes the emirate’s position having not hosted another major international event before is an advantage over others like Russia.


70 votes have now been cast in round two.

Editor, Alicia Buller at The Capital Club, has been speaking to Mark Beer, chief executive and registrar, DIFC Courts.

“Yes. 100 per cent we’ll win it.

“And if we don’t, we learnt a lot along the way. We’ve changed the world’s perception, people have seen the reality of Dubai.

“HE Reem Al Hashimy was instrumental in the direction of the bid. She has demonstrated Dubai’s intelligence and passion to the world.”


The second stage of voting has started in Paris.

At The Capital Club, features editor Rob Anderson – who says a round of applause broke out at the news Dubai had made it through round one – has been chatting to Guy Guillemard, CEO and Co-Founder of Signature Clubs International, who believes it would make the most sense for Dubai to win given the strength of its bid. “But individual votes are guided where their country’s interests lie,” he points out.

Guillemard also says Dubai’s proximity to Africa is a definite bonus over its rivals.


Sao Paolo is the first city to be eliminated. Dubai is officially in first place.


Dubai received 77 votes, that’s 47 per cent, and is through to round two.

Izmir received 20 per cent of the vote and Russia roughly 24 per cent.


In Paris, the first round of voting has finished.

Meanwhile at The Capital Club, our team has been speaking to Dr Tommy Weir, leadership expert and author of Top 10 Tips For The Middle East – and also a regular Gulf Business guest writer.

“I certainly hope we’ll win the bid. It will be a testimony to what Dubai has achieved,” he said.

“If you look at everyday life in Dubai, we’re already connecting the world every day. Since 1904, Dubai has opened its shores.”


150 votes have been submitted so far, 15 left before we know the result of round one. Will we have a loser, or a winner?

Back to The Capital Club now…

Alicia Buller, editor: Speaking to Ranjit Roy, head of financial institutions group, Middle East at ANZ. He says:

“By and large, given the infrastructure, and investment outlook, I believe Dubai will win.

“The UAE is looking ahead and that’s the difference; the infrastructure that’s built today was thought of ten years ago, and that will continue. We are one step ahead.

“Even if we lose, we’ve still won. Many people didn’t know who Dubai was before the bid.

“For the first time I feel Dubai is united, you can feel a fabric forming and that’s unusual for a young country.”


Do you need a breather? Phew, so do we. Now is probably a good time to run through this blog and have a look at what we were enjoying earlier. Everything from what the Expo is to how Dubai (and the other cities) entered to the voting process which we’re enduring right now is detailed below.

Scroll down and enjoy.


Meanwhile in Paris, the 165 voting members have been handed a card that looks a lot like the below. More than 70 votes have been cast so far, but there’s an expected 45 minutes still until round one is over. It could be a long night, but we’re not going anywhere…are you?



Our features editor Rob Anderson reports some at The Capital Club are a little too eager in hearing the decision with the first glass already smashed.

Our editor Alicia Buller is speaking to Sajid Khan, regional director of sales, Taj Hotels, Resorts and Palaces, Middle East. He’s a believer in Dubai’s bid, he says.

“I believe the infrastructure stands out. Strategically, I believe Dubai has the best location.

“Yes I believe we’ll win but of course there are many factors to consider.

“For me, Dubai is my home, it is a government that is friendly, sensitive and accommodating.”


Alicia Buller, editor: “The room is full of people from all industries. A complete spectrum of bigwigs spanning retail, banking, management consulting and hospitality so far.

“Interesting also is the number of different nationalities here, this is Dubai’s strength – the 200 different nationalities who choose to call it home, who live together, by and large, incredibly peacefully.

“Indians, Pakistanis, Brits, Irish, Germans, Arabs and many more are all joining in for a common cause.”


The first round of voting in Paris is underway as the delegations wait nervously for their announcement. In a matter of minutes we will either lose one of the candidates or, if one of the cities secures two thirds of the vote at the first attempt, they will automatically be declared the winner. Hold onto your hats.


This from our team at The Capital Club in Dubai:

Rob Anderson, features editor: “We’ve arrived at Dubai’s bustling Capital Club in time for the first voting session. Expect the venue to be filled to capacity with Dubai’s business elite over the coming hours.”

Alicia Buller, editor: “The Capital Club is busy, busy, busy. The atmosphere is jovial and upbeat as over 300 directors take their seats for the big moment that could happen anytime starting from 6pm.”


Countdown: 3 hours

Alicia Buller (AB): 4.45pm: The excitement is building up here at Motivate towers, home of Gulf Business.

After months of writing about the Expo bid and its mega benefits for Dubai, we’ve had to pinch ourselves that we’ll finally find out for real today.

We spoke to Expo 2020 project director HE Reem Hashimy last month who gave us the inside story on how much it means for Dubai. It’s not just hype.

Winning the Expo really does mean the difference for many industries, particularly the construction industry which has suffered at the hands of a dampened global climate and weak economic sentiment.

One chartered quantity surveyor I know said today’s decision means the difference between staying in the emirates or not. I suspect it’s the same story for many sectors in Dubai.

I, for one, came away impressed with HE Reem Hashimy’s passionate speech on Dubai, ‘this young country’. She is the vision of the message we want to be sending out to the world: committed, engaging, eloquent and intelligent.

Already we are seeing the PR power of the Expo, and potentially turning the Dubai stereotype on its head. (Take that, Daily Mail!).

Right, my pumpkin coach has arrived. I’ll be hopping in it with my chaperone, features editor Robert Anderson (@robertanderso). We’re off to the Dubai Capital Club to watch the announcement live.

We’ll be keeping you informed every step of the way as we chat to the cream of Dubai’s business community about the Expo bid. What do local CEOs think of the competition?

In the midst of the Expo whirl, it’s easy to forget that we do have formidable competitors in the form of Turkey, Russia and Brazil. Here’s a column my boss wrote on just that subject:

Dubai Expo 2020: Lessons from South Africa

I’ll still be keeping the champagne on ice…

To be continued…

So, that’s it…almost. The four candidate cities have done everything in their power to host the World Expo in 2020, but they can do no more.

There will now be a two hour wait until voting begins at 17:30 UAE time, with the announcement taking place anytime between one and three hours after that, all depending on how long the voting process takes. How does voting work? You’ll find a feature on that further down this blog.

Looking back at Dubai’s final video, it featured clips of some of the famous names that have voiced their support for the emirate’s bid, including Bill Gates. A video that the founder of Microsoft and one of the world’s biggest philanthropists made with Dubai’s bid committee can be watched here: Bill Gates’ interview.

Read who else endorsed Dubai’s bid, including former and current prime ministers: Dubai Expo 2020: 10 High Profile Supporters

Countdown: 4 hours

Sao Paolo’s presentation followed Dubai’s opening, with Russia’s Ekaterinburg going third. Turkey’s Izmir presentation and final video is now underway.

HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shortly after Dubai's presentation.
HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, shortly after Dubai’s presentation.

Al Hashemy had a familiar front row audience during her presentation. Left to right, Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, minister of Development and International Corporation; HH Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman of Emirates Group and HH Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, minister of Foreign Affairs.


Unfortunately we do not have access to the other three cities’ final videos, so while they are going on, we’re going to reflect on what was an impressive and technologically smooth presentation by Dubai.

Taking to the stand, H.E. Reem Al Hashemy acknowledged the speech would be the most important of her life.

“I stand before you representing millions… We are committed to bring about positive change in the future,” she said.

“This Expo is not just about the UAE or Dubai, it’s about the greater region of two billion people. If you give us this honour, we will carry its values with pride and respect.

“Connecting Minds, Creating the Future is more than just a theme… It’s our commitment to partnerships.

“Dubai Expo 2020 will be first carbon neutral mega event. 

Connecting Minds, Creating the Future reflects our mission to catalyse the sustainability drive.

“Drawing from the wisdom of our forefathers, we strive to create a better future for the generations to come.

“I hope you have been touched by the spirit of our young country.”

Countdown: 5 hours

Dubai has now submitted its final bid video. H.E. Reem Al Hashemy, managing director of the Expo 2020 Bid Committee and minister of state, gave an impassioned and flawless speech to the BIE committee, punctuated with several short, captivating videos.


Dubai and the UAE has now done all it can. In five hours’ time we will know if it was enough.

Things are beginning to heat up in Paris. Dubai’s delegation are now inside the BIE hall, ready to show their four minute video – the emirate’s last chance to sway the voting panel. The three other candidate cities – Izmir, Sao Paolo and Ekaterinburg – will show their final videos immediately afterwards.

Here is one of Dubai’s bid videos, featuring a young UAE national called Ali:

Countdown: 6 hours

This wouldn’t be a 21st Century voting-day process if there wasn’t some social media action happening. Be sure to follow our editor @Alicianbuller and our features editor @RJAnderso for the latest news and gossip from The Capital Club in Dubai’s financial district later today.

Elsewhere on Twitter, Dubai Media Office has been uploading images from Paris. Here is Sheikh Ahmed with some of the bid committee, at the BIE General Assembly.


Countdown: 7 hours

Let’s backtrack a little. You may be sitting there trying your best to get excited about the vote, but not want to admit you actually have no idea what the Expo is. Nay fear, that’s why we asked an expert on the matter to write this: Expo 2020 – What Is It And Does It Affect Me?

Now you know exactly what the Expo is, you’re probably wondering how did Dubai manage to put itself forward to host one of the world’s biggest events. Well we’ve answered that question for you as well: Expo 2020: How Does The Bidding Process Work?

Countdown: 8 hours

Opinions on what will happen should Dubai win the Expo today continue to flood in.

Barclays has issued a report suggesting a successful bid will boost Dubai’s year-to-year GDP growth to 6.4 per cent over the next three years while doubling it to 10.5 per cent by 2020.

However, the British lender also warned that the Expo will only propel the emirate’s growth as long as new borrowing is done in a fiscally sustainable manner. Read more here: Dubai’s Expo Win Will Boost Public Finances – Barclays

Meanwhile Wolfgang Neumann, president and CEO of the Rezidor Hotel Group, was asked last night in Kuwait if his company plans to purse new contracts in Dubai should the bid be successful. “Absolutely, no doubt. With the goal of growing tourism, and the airport development, it’s exciting to see what’s happening. To me, Dubai is always amazing how it reinvents itself.”

Countdown: 9 hours

As voting day has drawn closer this week, stories surrounding the Expo have multiplied.

Turkey’s transport minister, Binali Yıldırım, was feeling confident yesterday, telling his local media that the country’s Izmir bid has received backing from 60 countries.

Yıldırım said senior Turkish delegation members had held talks with 97 per cent of the 165 BIE voting members. Read his bullish comments here: Expo 2020: Turkey Claims Support From 60 Countries

Earlier in the week, property consultancy firm CBRE released a report claiming a successful Dubai bid will boost the UAE’s economy and spur growth in the emirate’s real estate sector.

The report also noted that the overwhelmingly strong belief of winning the bid has already been factored into Dubai’s property prices, which have shot up substantially in the last year.

Read the whole story here: Dubai Expo 2020 Win Will Spur Property Market – CBRE

First things first then, how is today going to unfold?

Well, His Highness Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum flew into Paris on Monday to lead the UAE’s delegation. Alongside Sheikh Ahmed is Reem Al Hashemy, managing director of the Expo 2020 Bid Committee and minister of state and Mohammed Ebrahim Al Shaibani, director-general of the Ruler’s Court of Dubai and CEO of Investment Corporation of Dubai, as well as other notable figures from the emirate.

More: UAE Delegation In Paris Headed By Sheikh Ahmed

The delegation will be present as Dubai, and the other candidate cities, present their final videos to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) in one final attempt to woo the voters.

After that, all 168 member states of the BIE will be locked away in a sealed room to begin the voting process. And how will that work? You can read how right here: How Does The Voting Process Work?

Countdown: 10 hours

After years of planning, months of publicity, weeks of speculation and days of nervous chatter, the voting day to decide which city will host the World Expo in 2020 is finally here.

In approximately 10 hours’ time, a delegation of 168 member states will emerge from a locked room in Paris to announce which nation has triumphed.

Whoever wins, it will be an historic moment. Dubai, UAE or Izmir, Turkey will be the first Middle East nation to host the Expo. Sao Paolo, Brazil will be the first South American nation while Ekaterinburg, Russia will be the first from its region.

Gulf Business editor Alicia Buller will be at The Capital Club in Dubai’s financial district today, rubbing shoulders with the Dubai Expo bid committee and watching the announcement live.

Until then, we’ll bring you the latest news from Paris as well as a run down of what to expect today, how it will happen and a summary of the long and winding road that has led us to today.

So sit tight, cross your fingers and stay here for a live countdown to the announcement.


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