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Dubai celebrates winning right to host Expo 2020

Fireworks illuminate the sky around Dubai's Burj Khalifa on November 27, 2013, after the city was chosen to host the World Expo 2020
Karim Sahib | AFP | Getty Images
Fireworks illuminate the sky around Dubai's Burj Khalifa on November 27, 2013, after the city was chosen to host the World Expo 2020

Dubai has won the bid to host the 2020 World Expo the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) announced Wednesday evening after counting the votes of its 167 member countries in Paris.

Dubai's proposal, which won 116 votes and triumphed over plans from Ekaterinburg in Russia, Izmir in Turkey and Sao Paulo in Brazil, will mark the first time the event is held in the Middle East. The event will take place shortly before another capital-intensive project – the 2022 World Cup in neighboring Qatar.

The skyline of downtown Dubai came alight with a firework display above the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest skyscraper. In the last few months, the Emirate went into overdrive to make its case for hosting the world's fair, and campaign advertisements have become engrained in the city's landscape.

(Read more: The Dubai Air Show: what did we learn?)

Ahead of the decision, Dubai had secured high-profile public backing from several countries, including the United Kingdom.

"When Britain thinks of Dubai and its neighbors, we think of great business partnerships. We are proud that Dubai Ports World are the biggest in Europe and that Islamic investment has helped to finance some of our greatest banks, shops and even our Olympic village," British Prime Minister David Cameron said last month.

(Read more: Dubai unveilsnew airport with superhub ambitions)

UK businesses are not the only ones that stand to gain, with many multinational firms eager to ride the coattails of an expected pick-up in project allocations.

The Dubai government news agency pointed to a report by UK-based consultancy Oxford Economics, which forecast the event to draw 25 million visitors over a period of six months. It would also help generate over 277,000 jobs, most in the 2018-2021 period.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch maintained last month that the Dubai government was expected to provide some $6.8 billion in capital spending and $1.6 billion in operational costs. The bank added financing would "probably" be done through short-to-medium-term overdraft facilities.

"A successful 2020 Expo bid on November 27 should provide a modest lift to GDP (gross domestic product) growth, leading up to the period and a more material one around the event itself, in our view," the report said.

(Read more: Dubai stocks decline but volatility short-lived)

The total estimated impact was $23 billion, equating to an annual 3.5 percent of GDP.

Questions about property prices

There has been skepticism about the recent rally in the real estate market. Although authorities have already moved to dampen the rise somewhat by amending legislation such as transaction taxes, the Expo decision is likely to offer even more momentum.

(Read more: Dubai ups transaction fees to cool property market)

"While the Expo will result in long-term benefits to the Dubai economy and the real estate market, the short-term impact needs to be managed carefully to avoid the inevitable boost in sentiment translating into excessive price growth or over development" Alan Robertson, CEO of Jones Lang LaSalle MENA wrote in a short research brief ahead of the announcement.

Memories are still fresh from the 2009 bust in the property market. But Alex Thursby, CEO at the National Bank of Abu Dhabi – the lender that contributed to the original Dubai bailout – was confident of the road ahead, citing the Emirate's strengths in tourism, logistics and trade.

(Read more: Dubai real estate is hot again - maybe too hot: IMF)

"I think people have to be very cautious about looking at Dubai and saying the last two years there has been too much explosion" he told CNBC's "Access: Middle East" this week

"What's also interesting is that people in Dubai, and people in the UAE have learned from the 2008 experience, maybe more so than some of our European and North American friends"

The Dubai Financial Market (DFM) closed 0.5 percent higher ahead of the announcement, and has risen over 85 percent so far this year.

—By CNBC's Yousef Gamal El-Din. Follow him on Twitter: @youseftv

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