A "breathtaking experience" awaits global audiences tonight as Expo 2020 Dubai is formally unveiled during a star-studded opening ceremony that will be live streamed around the world and to more than 430 viewing locations across the UAE.

Performers in the 7.30pm show taking place at the Expo site’s iconic Al Wasl Plaza feature a combination of international, regional and home-grown talents. Among the headline acts include world-famous tenor Andrea Bocelli; Grammy-nominated, Golden-Globe-winning actress, singer and songwriter Andra Day; platinum-selling British singer-songwriter Ellie Goulding; international pianist Lang Lang; and four-time Grammy winner Angelique Kidjo.

Local and regional talents performing tonight include the ‘Artist of Arabs’ Mohamed Abdo, Emirati singing sensation ‘Fananat Al Arab’ Ahlam Alshamsi; Emirati Artist and Expo 2020 Dubai Ambassador Hussain Al Jassmi; rising UAE singer-songwriter Almas; and Grammy-nominated Lebanese-American singer Mayssa Karaa.

"The opening ceremony is just a breathtaking experience," says Amna Abulhoul, executive creative director, events and entertainment, Expo 2020 Dubai. "It's not something that I can explain through words. It's a sensory experience. It's something that you will only feel it when you actually watch it.

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"I don't want to give away what's happening in the last scene, but it's a breathtaking experience that you don't want to leave at Al Wasl Plaza."

Tareq Goshesh, chief events and entertainment officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, describes tonight’s event as the "opening ceremony of the century" and a symbolic celebration of the world’s unified efforts to break free from the pandemic.

"We believe that the Expo 2020 Dubai opening ceremony is going to be the opening ceremony of the century," says Tareq. "And hopefully it's the global celebration of walking out of Covid-19, where the spirit of hope and optimism will be the overarching experience."

Apart from the celebrity performances, the ceremony, which will have three segments, will also feature immersive projection, lots of music and "touching, beautiful moments… something the world has never seen", says Kate Randall, vice-president, ceremonies and programming, Expo 2020 Dubai.

Performers during the opening ceremony rehearsals

Kate says there will be a thousand performers and cast members running tonight’s show from the UAE as well as other countries. "But we're incredibly proud particularly of our Emirati performers participating in the opening ceremony. For a lot of them, this is the first time that they’ve had the opportunity to do something like this on the world stage. So we're looking forward to seeing them in action."

Where to watch

Screens will be set up in locations including the Dubai and Abu Dhabi International Airports, shopping malls, more than 240 hotels and other landmarks. The ceremonies will also be streamed live on virtualexpo.world and Expo TV.

The confirmed streaming locations include Emaar’s Rove, Armani, Address Hotels & Resorts, and Vida Hotels & Resorts, as well as Accor, Marriot, Hilton, IHG, Rotana, Jumeirah, Hyatt International and Atlantis The Palm.

Shopping centres streaming the event include 17 Majid Al Futtaim malls, City Walk, Nakheel Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, and 50 Jashanmal locations in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Some 97 Mediclinics will also be showing the event, along with Zabeel Ladies Club and Sharaf DG.

Across other emirates, viewings are taking place in Umm Al Quwain, Yas Plaza in Abu Dhabi and at the Corniche, Al Marjan Island and Manar Mall in Ras Al Khaimah. There will also be live broadcasts at Ajman Heritage District and Fujairah Fort, where other festivities will be held including a mini village, folklore bands, traditional crafts, heritage displays and traditional food.

The ceremony will take place at the Expo 2020 site’s Al Wasl Plaza

Various companies have also organised viewing parties for their staff and customers, including Emirates, which will stream the event at its first and business class lounges.

First day of Expo

To mark the first full day of activities at the Expo, simultaneous fireworks displays will light up Dubai’s skyline on October 1 from 8.20pm at Dubai Festival City, The Frame and The Pointe, Palm Jumeirah. The Pointe and Dubai Festival City will also showcase a dazzling light and sound fountain show themed on Expo 2020, while The Frame façade will be lit up in Expo colours. Some 192 countries are participating in spectacular fashion.

Tickets to Expo 2020 Dubai are available online and through more than 2,500 authorised ticket resellers, including online travel agents, tour operators, hotel groups and airlines around the world.

Expo 2020 Dubai will run from October 1 to March 31, 2022, with 192 participating countries.

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