From Messi to Bolt and Harlem Globetrotters — stars shine at world’s biggest fair
Dubai: Expo 2020 Dubai is not just about technology, innovation, sustainability and business opportunities. Sports fans in particular have been in for a treat as some of the world’s biggest sporting stars have visited the world’s biggest fair — and still more are expected to come in the New Year.
Earlier this month, Argentine footballer and Expo 2020 Dubai Ambassador Lionel Messi, fresh from his recent move to Paris Saint-German, wowed the crowd. He also shared his thoughts about Expo 2020 Dubai. Messi said: “Something extraordinary … each pavilion has its own thing, its own place. It shows you its culture, its country, it makes you see and learn from each one of them. It’s all very big, very impressive.”
And from one of the best footballers in the world to the fastest man on Earth — Usain Bolt dropped in just weeks ago to host a charity fun run. The retired Jamaican sprinter is still the world record holder in 100 metres, 200 metres and 4×100 metres relay and echoed Expo 2020 Dubai’s message of using sport to bring people together.
Bolt said: “For me, just watching sports is massive. One example: In Jamaica, when the Olympics are on, crime goes down to zero … and when the World Cup is going on, everyone is watching. So I feel sport plays such a big part in helping the world come together.”
Pep Guardiola, manager of Manchester City, was also very impressed during his visit: “It’s been a wonderful experience to witness the energy of grass roots football here at Expo 2020 Dubai and to see how the club connects with people around the world. The enthusiasm for the game demonstrated by the next generation of aspiring players is marvellous,” he noted.
Expo 2020 Dubai has seen visits from Olympic and Paralympic athletes, Tour de France cyclists, Formula 1 drivers (and its CEO, Stefano Domenicali), Premier League footballers, cricket legends, karate champions and the globe’s top chess players.
Talal Al Hashemi, National Director of Special Olympics UAE, said: “Expo 2020 Dubai is quickly becoming a global platform to operationalise inclusion, in sports and in life, and to make sure that people of determination are empowered as we connect minds and create the future.”
Even basketball exhibition team Harlem Globetrotters got to showcase their skills, while visitors got a glimpse of the Premier League trophy and the European Cup.
Former England Rugby Union player James Haskell described Expo 2020 as “a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity”, while other sports stars were blown away by their home country’s pavilion.
Ferrari Formula 1 driver Carlos Sainz Jr was among them. He said: “As a Spaniard, it makes me feel very proud — I’m impressed by the whole set-up,” he said during his visit. “I don’t spend enough time in Spain because of the travelling and I live in Italy. So this has been a good opportunity to be reminded of my country and all the cool places it has.”
Female athletes visiting Expo help to encourage participation and interest in women’s sports — Lancashire and England woman cricketer Kate Cross was very impressed by the site. “I couldn’t grasp how big it was going to be, you have to see it to believe it,” said Cross, adding: “At the Emirates Pavilion, they showed me what aviation is going to look like in 50 years’ time and how sustainability is going to be a big part of that. It’s all really exciting.”
With an even bigger sports venue opening at the Expo site in January, organisers said more sporting stars will come to Dubai. Running until March 31, Expo 2020 has invited visitors from across the planet to join the making of a new world in a six-month celebration of human creativity, innovation, progress and culture.
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