Established in 1928, the Bureau International des Expositions is the intergovernmental organisation that regulates and oversees World Expos

The first World Expo took place 170 years ago, at London’s glittering Crystal Palace, and began a tradition of showcasing the best and brightest minds and innovations from around the world

From 1 October 2021, the UAE will host the next World Expo in one of its own iconic cities, for Expo 2020 Dubai

BIE marks 170 years of World Expo

The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) will mark 170 years since the first World Expo on 1 May 2021, just as Expo 2020 Dubai puts the finishing touches to preparations for its opening in October.

In 1851, the Great Exhibition took place in London, housed in the glittering Crystal Palace, becoming the first World Expo ever held. Now, 170 years later, the UAE will play host to global nations and their people at the next World Expo, the first in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region.

Expo 2020 Dubai aims to drive inspiration, innovation and collaboration at the first megaevent since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic – a global gathering that will bring together more than 200 organisations and nations to inspire action and deliver actionable solutions to real-life challenges. In another first for World Expos, it will see every nation have its own pavilion under its one nation, one pavilion ethos. In addition, countries will be clustered not by their geography, but under Expo 2020’s three subthemes of Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability, depending on their focus – areas seen as essential to building a better future for everyone.

World Expos have introduced to the world some of the items used and enjoyed around the world as part of daily life, including colour television, mobile phones, the zipper and even tomato ketchup. The longevity and history of these events underscore their importance to their participants, and the generations that follow them. Since 1851 in London, destinations as diverse as St Louis, Paris, New York, Osaka and Shanghai have played host to visitors from across the world, with Dubai and the UAE now adding its name to that storeyed roll call with its own unique, historic contribution.

Dimitri S Kerkentzes, Secretary General of the BIE, said: “In 1851, the Great Exhibition celebrated the industrial wonders of a rapidly changing world, creating a new paradigm for global cooperation and progress. In the ensuing 170 years, World Expos have marked eras and shaped cities, and have been at the forefront of anticipating global change.”

  “As the planet faces unprecedented challenges, it has never been more important for the world to come together to share the brightest and best ideas and innovations. As visitors join countries and organisations later this year to exchange under the theme of “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future”, Expo 2020 Dubai will demonstrate the best that humanity can offer when we work together for a better future.”

Her Excellency Reem Al Hashimy, UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation and Director General, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “As we mark a truly historic milestone, everyone at Expo 2020 Dubai is extremely proud to be part of the illustrious lineage of World Expos. As the first nation in the region to host a World Expo, we cannot wait to add the next chapter to this wonderful history, collaborating on issues of global importance as we invite hundreds of participants and millions of visitors to join the making of a new world.”

Laura Faulkner OBE, UK Commissioner General at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “From the Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations at Crystal Palace in 1851 to the latest developments in AI in Dubai at Expo 2020, the UK has a long association with World Expos. We are looking forward to continuing our long-standing relationships with the BIE and the UAE, exploring common areas such as technology and space travel alongside other leading nations in this area. Innovation will be at the core of our message to the world, as it has been since the early days of the Expo.”

The BIE – the international governing body of World Expos – was originally created in 1928, with a mission to guarantee the quality of World Expos and protect the rights of their organisers and participants. Since its creation, the BIE has placed education, innovation and cooperation at the core of all Expos.

Expo 2020 Dubai will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, inviting visitors from every corner of the globe to join the making of a new world, as they discover life-changing innovations that will have a meaningful, positive impact on both people and planet.

From showcases of industrial innovation, World Expos have developed to become global discussion platforms aimed at finding solutions to the biggest challenges of humanity. More than 50 World Expos and Specialised Expos have been organised under the auspices of the BIE, and their success attracts new Member States each year, with 169 countries being Member States.

After the 1851 Great Exhibition in London, the momentum continued when the Commissioner General of the British Pavilion at Expo 1867 in Paris issued a memorandum to set a common organisational framework, which was then signed by counterparts from Austria, Prussia, Italy, Russia and the United States. The memorandum set three main objectives: to control the size and duration of Expos, set a rotation system between Member States, clarify the different types of Expos and guarantee the quality of the exhibits.

However, it was not until 1928 that the BIE was created, with the Convention of 1928 applied to all international exhibitions that were of non-commercial nature, not fine-arts exhibitions and that lasted more than three weeks.

Expo 2020 Dubai will run from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022, inviting visitors from every corner of the globe to join the making of a new world, as they discover life-changing innovations that will have a meaningful, positive impact on both people and planet.