Expo 2020 Dubai: A year late, 2021's second-biggest event has kicked off

It was on her 21st birthday that Kate Randall started her job at the Sydney Olympics. Now, a neat 21 years later, that athletes' village role has led her half-way around the globe to a senior role at the $US7 billion ($A9.6 billion) Dubai Expo, the world's second biggest event this year after the Tokyo Games.

Randall is just one of a still large pool of talented Australians who, two decades later, continue to be sought after for their expertise and dedication by major events both here and overseas.

"[The Sydney Olympics] really opened my eyes to a whole world of career possibilities and I've been working on major events around the world and at home ever since," says Randall, whose CV also includes the 2018 Invictus Games and, in the same year, the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the Glasgow equivalent four years earlier.

She says she's constantly meeting people who worked on the Sydney Games who are now working around the world on other major events who she didn't meet back at the time. "Aussies are generally pretty hard workers," she says. "We don't mind a challenge and we're happy to jump into most situations."

Similar to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the 2020 Dubai World Expo was postponed last year due to COVID-19 but opened on October 1 - with a suitably flashy opening ceremony overseen by Randall and featuring legendary Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli.

With Australia's international borders set to reopen ahead of time next month, at least some Australians may now be able to visit Dubai and experience both the Expo and the curiously little-publicised, at least in Australia, "Blue Sky Dreaming", the Australian pavilion backed by the federal government.

Video: An aerial tour of Expo 2020 Dubai

Australia is one of 190 nations participating in the event. Expos are staged every five years and gift the world legacy landmarks such as Paris' Eiffel Tower and Melbourne's Royal Exhibition Building, both UNESCO World Heritage-listed.


Each Expo sports its own grand theme with Dubai's ethos being "connecting minds and creating the future is about unlocking human potential and exploring what's possible when we come together". Brisbane successfully hosted a world fair, as expos are also known, with Melbourne staging an International Exhibition in 1880-81.

Randall's role at the Dubai Expo is the impressively-sounding "vice-president of ceremonies and programming" which sees her leading a large team to bring to life the opening and closing ceremonies and all of the daily, site-wide entertainment.

She says many Australians are either directly employed by Expo 2020, as she is, or are involved with the Australian Pavilion itself, with many specialist companies having won contracts for the event across areas such as the performing arts, creative consultancies, design, food and hospitality, IT and event management.

Unlike the Olympics and Paralympics, which occupy just a month on the calendar, Expos are held over several months. Visitors to the Dubai Expo aged 18 and over will be required to show proof of a COVID-19 vaccination recognised by their national government or a negative PCR test taken within the previous 72 hours.

Non-vaccinated ticket-holders who have not been tested within this period can use the testing facility next to the Expo 2020 site. It takes around four hours to get the results. The PCR test will be free on presentation of any valid Expo 2020 ticket.

"Because it's open until March 31, 2022, there's still plenty of time to plan a visit, and we're heading into winter here in the UAE which will make for absolutely beautiful days and evenings for strolling around Expo and exploring the world in one place. I still hope that they will be able to come visit before the end of Expo and see and experience it for themselves.

See expo2020dubai.com