PARIS: Dubai yesterday beat off opposition from Brazil, Russia and Turkey to win the right to host the 2020 World Expo. The Gulf city beat Russia’s Ekaterinberg in the final round of voting to clinch a prestigious event that is credited with delivering a huge boost to tourism and business in the host city. Dubai, the economic and transport hub of The United Arab Emirates, won 116 votes in the third round, comfortably beating Ekaterinberg with 47.

There was one abstention. The four candidate cities, which also included Brazil’s Sao Paulo and Turkey’s Izmir, had pulled out all the stops during 20 minute presentations before voting by the 168 member states of the International Exhibitions Bureau (BIE), which oversees the organization of the events. The Emirates kicked off the presentations by pitching Dubai as a futuristic, glitzy city.

Emirates minister Reem Al Hashimi told the meeting that Dubai was a city “capable of hosting the world” and promised visitors an “unforgettable experience” if it won the bid. The victory for Dubai-home to the world’s tallest tower, largest man-made island and one of the world’s busiest airports-means the World Expo will be hosted by an Arab country for the first time. According to UAE officials, 40 percent of the estimated 227,000 new jobs expected to be created as a result of Expo will be in the tourism and travel sectors.

The site chosen for the event, is spread over 438 hectares and located between the international airports of Dubai and Abu Dhabi, the capital of the Emirates. Brazil, which is already gearing up to welcome the World Cup next year and the Olympic Games in 2016, had roped in famed Brazilian composer and musician Gilberto Gil to garner votes for its candidate city, Sao Paulo. Gil played his versions of Bob Marley’s reggae hit “No Woman No Cry” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” in a short performance during the presentation. But it was in vain as Sao Paulo failed to get past the first round.

The World Expo, a modern-day successor to the Great Exhibitions of the 19th and early 20th centuries, showcases technology, architecture and culture. Shanghai was the last host city and Milan is next in line in 2015. The Chinese city set a record by attracting a record 73 million victors to the event. Izmir, a city on Turkey’s western coast, was eliminated in the second round of voting. It had already bid for a chance to host the 2015 Expo but lost out to Milan.

In yesterday’s bid, Turkey showcased Izmir’s long association with medicine and healthcare, highlighting that it housed the first psychiatric hospital in ancient times. Turkish Health Minister Mehmet Muezzinoglu described Izmir, known as Smyrna for much of its history, as “the cradle of modern medicine”. Izmir emerged as a flourishing international trading post as a crossroads between Europe and Asia. The city of about four million is a major tourist attraction with a palm-lined renovated waterfront, archaeological treasures and ancient ruins and nearby golden beaches.

Ekaterinberg’s pitch included a video appeal by Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev to “give Russia a chance”. Russia was trying to promote the industrial city as part of a bid to develop the Ural region into a hub for technology and innovation, and attract more tourists to this lesser-visited part of the country. With a population of 1.4 million, Ekaterinburg is Russia’s fourth largest city and had hoped to capitalize on its recent endorsement by Forbes magazine as Russia’s best place to do business.- AFP