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The anticipated World Expo 2020 in Dubai has just begun and the Czech Republic's six-month participation will show whether the long preparations have paid off. Directly from Dubai, Jiří František Potužník, general director of the Czech Republic's participation in the Universal World Expo, shared his first feelings. "Despite the difficulties that accompany the exhibition, the organisation is top-notch," he says in an interview with

A few days ago the Czech pavilion was not ready, what happened?

Yes, in the load test we discovered that faulty wiring had damaged some components. When we were finishing all the work last week, a sandstorm unexpectedly swept through our pavilion. Within moments, people hastily took shelter in the pavilion but our largest handmade steel sculpture Cloud, was superficially damaged. However now all is well and the pavilion is ready for its first official visitors.

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A year postponed exhibition has certainly brought many pitfalls, not only financial. What's next?

The postponement of the Expo date by a year due to anti-pandemic measures and the coronavirus pandemic did not only mean a time delay. For many countries including us it meant increasing the budget, redoing dozens of contracts and changing some of the factual and contractual terms.

In addition, some of our partners ended up resigning because of the economic impact and the anti-pandemic measures. During the one-year delay we were then able to reach out to new partners and make the internal display more harmonised, aligned and complete with exhibits that are not only unique but provide a real insight into the future.

What surprised you, meaning in a positive sense, from an organisational perspective?

I was surprised by the endurance and courage of the organisers and that they didn't give up. The one-year postponement meant a lot of nervousness and there were questions about whether one year would be enough and whether partners or exhibitors would not give up and cancel their participation. In addition, it cost the organisers a lot of extra money and they are dealing with supply shortages due to the closed Chinese ports. They all really have my respect.

So is Expo 2020 in Dubai diametrically different? Perhaps because it is being held in an Arab country?

Pretty much all European countries have several thousand years of tradition to build on. However, the United Arab Emirates and cities like Dubai are fifty years old and the architecture, style and pace of construction are in keeping with that. The large skyscrapers retain a welcoming appearance, with plenty of space between them away from the sea.

Here they really think about everything and know that resources are finite. That is why the motto of the exhibition is "Connecting Minds, Creating the Future" and Dubai is aware that even their resources, be it oil or natural gas, will run out one day and they are already looking for some other alternatives. That is why the Expo is very important for them, to establish relations with countries that can offer them solutions.

Like our unique S.A.W.E.R. systém which produces water from humidity in the air and which could be really useful for the UAE but also for neighbouring countries. In addition, it will raise awareness of our country which I think is also important.

So apart from awareness of our country, how is participation in the World Expo important? Many consider it a financially demanding event that is unnecessary.

If participation in the Expo makes sense in times of slumping public finances, I ask myself this question as well. But the way I answer it is that if there are 180 countries presenting at the Expo, it makes sense. For relatively little public money we are opening up the space to private investors who are contributing to the overall content and are also contributing financially to the participation.

Czech companies want to be part of prestigious exhibitions and invest even a few million to showcase their ideas to the whole world. They are the ones who should decide whether our participation makes sense. The fact that it makes sense is proven for example by our participation in the last Expo in Milan, where similar questions were asked.

There we ended up winning an award for architecture and raising our reputation internationally. Even though we are a small country, we can compete with others which I think is really meaningful.

Do the local people have an awareness of the Czech Republic? Do they know where it is, who we are?

Yes, the organisers know about us very well. When we built our pavilion, we kept them busy with our specific requirements. They have always accommodated us with everything.

Otherwise, the awareness of the Czech Republic in Dubai is generally not high, although Czech clientele is quite common here. Thus, in addition to the Expo, we also present ourselves at the local universities in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Thanks to this we have established cooperation with a local institute where they were very surprised by our S.A.W.E.R. system. That is why we are here and that makes sense to me.

Začíná Expo. Zvýší povědomí o Česku, naše expozice je unikát, říká ředitel -