A night of sheer magic marked the end of Expo 2020 on Thursday evening.
With a spellbinding closing ceremony smattered with fireworks and world-class entertainment taking over the stage under the stunning Al Wasl Dome, the curtains came down on the ‘world’s greatest show’ in befitting style.
“Today is not the end of Expo 2020 Dubai, but a new beginning,” His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai declared in an audio message that boomed through the beating heart of the mega fair.
Recalling the Expo 2020 journey in his speech, he said: “We portrayed to the world a different version of ingenuity that touched the hearts and minds of every member of society.
“Our sons and daughters have proven their ability to overcome unprecedented difficulties and challenges. And in every moment of this journey, we reflected the values of the UAE — values of affection and hospitality.”
The hour-long grand spectacle was attended by Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, and other top officials and dignitaries.
The night, that saw the Expo flag being handed over to Japan that will host the next world fair at Osaka in 2025, captured the joy and achievement of a six-month journey that began at Al Wasl Plaza on October 1, 2021.
Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance and Coexistence and Commissioner General of Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “From the very first moment, we promised that Expo 2020 Dubai will be one for the history books,” he said encapsulating the pageantry of pavilions, mega entertainment events, shows and conferences that the world fair hosted between October 1, 2021 and March, 31, 2022.
As Dubai hosted the first World Expo on Arab soil, Sheikh Nahyan said the UAE had worked tirelessly to achieve the goal of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ — the overriding theme of Expo 2020.
Throughout the fair’s six-month run, it welcomed world leaders, dignitaries and visitors from across the world — and the UAE will continue to do so, the minister said.
“I reiterate that our doors will remain open to everyone. The UAE has, and will always remain a country for all humans, so you are welcome here always,” he said.
The night began with the rendition of the national anthem by children as the UAE flag was unfurled on the trellis of the Al Wasl Dome that shimmered as fireworks erupted in the night sky. The star of the night was the 360-degree projection dome that switched from a riot of colours one moment, to a silver stream of a cascading waterfall the next moment before transforming to a screen with horses taking a flight of fancy, lending a magical touch to the night.
The closing ceremony also saw a remix of the Expo theme song ‘This Is Our Time’, as dancers moved in circles holding flags of the participating countries, transforming the sprawling 438-hectare site into a magic planet.
It was then that the girl — played by Dubai schoolgirl Mira Singh — from the opening ceremony, appeared on stage in the same flowing pink costume essaying the role of an Emirati girl.
The ancient golden ring found by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and which is emblematic of the Expo, shimmered above the dome, and descended into a golden circle as the girl performed in sync with an ensemble of dancers.
Pop superstar Christina Aguilera then took to the stage to belt out “A million dreams are keeping me awake’ with passion, which resonated big time with the crowd which cheered and roared wildly.
Hundreds and thousands watched the show that was live-streamed on 20 giant screens placed across the sprawling site, including the Jubilee Stage, festival garden and sports hubs. Millions tuned in from around the world.
Amidst all the celebrations, emotions ran high as residents bid a wistful goodbye to the mega event that had enthralled them with hundreds of events, shows and performances.
“I am breaking down in tears. I do not want this to end,” said Filipino expat Marissa Lisie.
One by one, pavilions at the sprawling site switched off their lights — and with that, the world’s greatest show took its final bow.