Expo 2020 Dubai is set to be postponed by one year due to the global coronavirus pandemic, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters and two sources familiar with the matter.
An estimated 11 million overseas visitors were expected to attend the nearly six-month-long showpiece of culture, business and technology featuring pavilions from 192 countries that was due to start in October.
Dubai is expected to announce later on Monday that the event will be pushed back to next year following a meeting between officials from the United Arab Emirates and foreign countries who were set to participate, the statement and sources said.
Participations had asked for the delay, citing a need to focus on the coronavirus outbreak, the statement and two of the sources said. An Expo spokesman declined to comment.
A formal delay would be confirmed at a later meeting of member states of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), which awards the event, one of the sources said.
Expo is the last major international event that is still officially scheduled to go ahead this year. The 2020 Tokyo Olympics were last week postponed by a year, the first such delay in the 124-year history of the modern Games.
The pandemic has wrecked havoc on the global economy, infecting over half a million people around the world, and forced countries to close their borders, bringing some industries to a halt.
Dubai has spent billions of dollars on infrastructure in preparation for the Expo and local officials and executives have said the event would be a major driver of economic growth.