The world’s fair has evolved from an industrial exposition into the Olympics of public diplomacy, and the United States should be there.
Matthew Asada, Foreign Services Journal
The world’s fair has evolved from an industrial exposition into the Olympics of public diplomacy, and the United States should be there.
Matthew Asada, Foreign Services Journal
The U.S. Department of State’s December magazine includes a write up on the U.S. pavilion at Expo Milan 2015. It shares that the U.S. pavilion was one of the year’s greatest public diplomacy opportunities in Europe and drew six million of the Expo’s 21 million visitors.
The theme of Expo Milan was “Feeding the Plant, Energy for Life” with the U.S. pavilion theme “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet.”
It states: “As the Expo’s dust settles, those involved with (U.S. pavilion) can take satisfaction in its role in the global conversation about how to feed 9 billion people by 2050. Active U.S. participation at this world’s fair reminded the world that the U.S. is a leading force in overcoming this challenge…In the end there was no doubt:
Our participation was essential.”
Read the entire PDF State Magazine: Food for Thought
The Wall Street Journal published an article on February 19, 2009 titled The U.S. Can’t Host a World Expo, and Fans Say That’s No Fair. Fast forward almost seven years and much of this article is still timely and relevant.
By Daniel Michaels, Feb. 19, 2009
For the 1889 Universal Exposition in Paris, France produced an engineering marvel, the Eiffel Tower. Not to be outdone, America shot back with Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition and the debut of the Ferris wheel. Attendance at the world’s fair topped one-third of the U.S. population.
Less than a century later, sparse crowds drove the 1984 New Orleans World’s Fair into bankruptcy. The stature of expos in the U.S. plunged so low that in 2001 Washington essentially pulled out of the expo race by quitting its membership in the world organizing body.
That’s not stopping Manuel Delgado from trying to organize a new one on U.S. shores. A marketing executive and Boy Scouts volunteer in Houston, he says hosting one of the international get-togethers would do wonders for America’s image abroad.
“Let’s face it, the whole world wants to bombard us with shoes,” he says, referring to the Iraqi reporter who hurled a shoe at President George W. Bush in Baghdad last year.
Mr. Delgado isn’t alone. A group in Las Vegas is drafting plans for a U.S. expo with the theme “The Future of My Future,” which will showcase innovations in vaccines and energy production. In San Francisco, graphic designer and expo historian Urso Chappell has been agitating for several years to stage a follow-up to the city’s 1915 fair, where visitors could float down a five-acre model of the new Panama Canal. So far, Mr. Chappell says he’s made little headway.
“All roads to a world’s fair in the U.S. are uphill,” says Mr. Delgado.
For starters, to host an officially sanctioned fair, a country must belong to the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, or BIE. But the U.S. government left the 154-nation treaty organization, and rejoining would require federal legislation. An unauthorized expo could face a global boycott, as happened four decades ago in New York.
Expo fans say the U.S. could win credibility as a host candidate if it has a national pavilion at the next big fair, opening in Shanghai on May 1, 2010. The catch: To cut spending, Congress a decade ago forbade federal funding of a pavilion.
To get around that, the State Department in 2007 requested proposals for a privately financed pavilion. Last April, the department picked a team led by theme-park developer Nick Winslow and Ellen Eliasoph, an American lawyer in China. The two have been racing to coax sponsorships from dozens of big American companies, whom they decline to name. They’ve also been honing plans for a $60 million, 60,000 square-foot pavilion complete with a roof garden and 3-D multimedia theater featuring wind, mist and a rumbling floor. The pair have until April 15 to line up the funding.
A State Department spokeswoman says the U.S. wants to participate in Shanghai if possible, but can’t use taxpayer money. Mr. Delgado says having the pavilion in Shanghai is “critical” for his own project.
Another obstacle that expo boosters face in the U.S. is apathy. Las Vegas organizer Mark Fries says the universal reaction to suggestion of a new expo is: “Wow, do they still have those?”
The first world’s fair took place in London in 1851, and was later copied by Paris, Vienna and Melbourne, Australia. The expos attracted millions of visitors and offered countries a chance to flaunt their wealth and sophistication by displaying inventions, art and architecture.
Early U.S. expos introduced the world to the telephone, the zipper and electric lights, plus food and drinks including ice-cream cones, Dr Pepper and shredded wheat. New York’s “World of Tomorrow” expo in 1939 featured General Motors Corp.’s “Futurama,” a sprawling diorama imagining the America of 1960 with automated cars cruising down multilevel highways.
So many countries were eventually hosting world’s fairs that in 1928, governments signed a treaty establishing the BIE, which oversees competitions for one big expo every 10 years and more frequent small ones.
With the rise of television, jet travel and satellite communications, fairs’ magnetism as must-see windows on the future has waned. Theme parks and commercial spectacles such as auto shows, meanwhile, sapped expos’ ability to thrill. Fairs have scrambled for relevance by focusing on big ideas like energy and ecology. Expo 2000 in Hanover, Germany, for example, carried the theme “Man-Nature-Technology.” Japan built a pavilion from paper tubes that later got recycled.
In Houston, Mr. Delgado and his team of about a dozen people believe they know how to get people juiced for an expo in 2020. “We want really bizarre looking buildings,” says the 39-year-old native of Venezuela, who moved to Houston in 1997. He says his epiphany about organizing an expo came from fond memories of working at the 1992 “Age of Discovery” Expo in Seville, Spain, and meeting people from around the world. America’s expo amnesia has surprised him.
The Houston team is lobbying local politicians, whom they want in turn to press Washington for support. Mr. Delgado is also consulting local universities on urban-impact studies and investigating ways to tout Houston at the Shanghai expo.
“It’s a very fine line between being considered a visionary and a wacko,” says Mr. Delgado.
In Las Vegas, the 56-year-old Mr. Fries has spent four years sketching out a six-month expo, which he figures could cost $3 billion to stage inside the city’s vast convention center (that would avoid the issue of sweltering desert heat, says Mr. Fries). He says he’s not seeking support from casinos to ensure the idea isn’t dismissed as simply a gaming expo. And since Las Vegas itself already feels somewhat like a world’s fair, he adds, the expo would focus on “the individual,” not glitz.
Mr. Fries is also calling for the U.S. to rejoin the BIE, fearing a repeat of New York’s battle in 1964. That year, the bureau’s limits on expo duration and financing irked state development czar Robert Moses. After meeting BIE officials in Paris, he ridiculed them as “three people living obscurely in a dumpy apartment,” according to a biography of Mr. Moses. The BIE shot back by urging member-nations to shun the two-year event. Most did.
Washington finally joined the BIE in 1968, when San Antonio hosted the HemisFair, which celebrated the Americas. The 1982 fair in Knoxville, Tenn., boasted the world’s biggest Rubik’s Cube, but sparked little enthusiasm with its theme of “Energy Turns the World.” The 1984 New Orleans fair, where attendees could enter a 40-foot-high model of a pulsating human heart, needed an infusion of government cash to survive.
In 1995, a libertarian Washington think tank attacked America’s annual BIE dues of $25,000 as “pork-barrel spending.” Congress soon stopped paying. The U.S. skipped Germany’s 2000 expo, but made an appearance five years later at Japan’s Expo, with corporate sponsorships funding a pavilion. A talking life-size model of Benjamin Franklin greeted guests, and an eco-friendly concept car was displayed to illustrate the theme, “Nature’s Wisdom.”
Shanghai 2010 planners have reserved space for a U.S. pavilion. Chinese officials expect 70 million visitors, which would make it the biggest expo ever. BIE Secretary General Vicente Loscertales, who believes his agency was “collateral damage” of U.S. unilateralism a decade ago, now hopes President Barack Obama’s administration will find room for expos.
“Life is more than war and money,” he said on a recent visit to Paris’s Grand Palais, an ornate exhibition hall built for the 1900 expo.
Back in Houston, Mr. Delgado acknowledges his looming challenges by noting that Americans sometimes say a tough task “needs an act of Congress” to get done. He adds: “This is the first time I’ve done anything that actually requires one.”
A well-known Rochester leader is among those seeking to bring the World’s Fair to Minnesota in 2023.
Retired Mayo Clinic physician and University of Minnesota Regent Patricia Simmons traveled to Milan, Italy, this month to see the 2015 World’s Fair up close. Simmons is on the advisory board for Expo 2023 — a nonprofit organization leading efforts to bring the fair to Minnesota.
The theme of the proposed 2023 World’s Fair in Minnesota would be health and wellness. Simmons said when she was first approached about helping with the World’s Fair effort, she was somewhat skeptical. But as she thought more about it, she realized the state is already slated to host the Super Bowl in 2018 and the Final Four in 2019.
“This has gotten some real traction among business leaders, community leaders and government leaders in Minnesota, so as the support has grown, as people have learned more about what it could be, what it could accomplish for our state, I agreed it was worth pursuing,” Simmons said.
It turns out that Rochester and Mayo Clinic could end up playing key roles in attempts to win the World’s Fair bid.
Expo 2023 Executive Director Mark Ritchie said the organization plans to submit a bid for the 2023 World’s Fair on May 15. As part of the bidding process, a delegation from the Bureau of International Expositions would visit Minnesota to inspect the plans — possibly as early as mid-November. Ritchie said he has met with Mayo Clinic President and CEO Dr. John Noseworthy about the possibility of the clinic hosting an international symposium during the visit. The symposium would focus on why Minnesota is the perfect place to host a World’s Fair focused on health and wellness.
“Not everyone on the planet has heard about Minnesota. They might have heard about Mayo Clinic,” Ritchie said.
The 2023 World’s Fair would span three months in the summer and bring an estimated 10 to 15 million visitors to the state. It would also generate an estimated 4 billion in tourism spending.
Ritchie said his organization is considering several possible 62-acre sites for the event in the Twin Cities. At this point, Richie said his organization does not plan to ask for public dollars for the event.
Even though the event will be in the Twin Cities-metro, he said the goal is to make sure that visitors are encouraged to visit other parts of the state as well — including Rochester.
“There is so much more to Minnesota that we want people to know about, to go visit,” Ritchie said.
Simmons said Expo 2023 would help show the world that Minnesota is a global leader when it comes to health care.
She added, “This provides us a stage to show what Minnesota is to the nation and the world. I think it provides a tremendous opportunity for Rochester because Rochester is the home of Minnesota’s most famous entity — the Mayo Clinic.”
Heather J. Carlson, Post Bulletin | November 2, 2015 – 6:48 am
With the help of the University of Minnesota, the 2023 world’s fair could come to the state.
The three-month event could bring 12 million foreign visitors and $4 billion in tourism spending to Minnesota, according to proponents. The occasion would add to a growing list of high-profile events scheduled for the Twin Cities, including the 2018 Super Bowl and 2019 NCAA Men’s Final Four.
The Minneapolis City Council officially endorsed Expo 2023 — the official effort to bring the world’s fair to Minnesota — earlier this month, and University faculty members and administrators have helped the planning process get off the ground.
London held the first world’s fair in 1851. The first city illuminated by electricity, the first television broadcast, the Space Shuttle and the world’s first picture phone were all presented at world’s fairs held in the United States. The U.S. hasn’t hosted a world’s fair since New York in 1964.
“When a city hosts a world’s fair, it’s sending itself off to college,” said Urso Chappell, a world expo consultant. “It’s a transformative event. It’s an education. It’s fun. When a city hosts, [it comes] out seeing itself anew.”
The fair would cover a 60-acre site and feature pavilions from more than 100 countries, corporations and civic groups. A specific host site hasn’t been selected, said Mark Ritchie, president of the event’s bid committee and former Minnesota secretary of state.
The fair’s theme, “Wellness and Well-Being for All: Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” makes the University’s Academic Health Center “ground zero,” he said, adding that the University’s advancements in clinical and medical technology research would be a focal point of the fair.
Many groups within the University have been involved in the planning and consulting process, Ritchie said. Thomas Fisher, dean of the University’s College of Design, has been the “main visionary” on design ideas, he said, and faculty members in the Carlson School of Management have helped with initial consulting and analysis.
It’s important to think about how fairs are changing today, Fisher said.
“In the digital age, where you can get information and images in the palm of your hand, the old way to go to the fair to see things is changing,” he said.
Modern fairs have to be more engaging, with fairgoers producing as well as consuming ideas, Fisher said.
University Board of Regents member Patricia Simmons was part of one of the four delegations that recently traveled to Italy to study its fair, Ritchie said.
Minnesota’s globally minded and welcoming atmosphere makes it an ideal location for the fair, he said.
“When the world visits Minneapolis, it will experience the way we embrace the outdoors during every season and witness the way we value infrastructure that encourages healthy behaviors,” Ward 4 City Councilwoman Barb Johnson said in a letter last month to the committee working to bring the fair to Minnesota.
Ritchie said the official bid will be submitted in May. The project will be a public-private partnership with no requests for government funding, according to the bid committee.
Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey said Minneapolis is deserving of recognition on a global scale and that it’s time the city shares its health and holistic thinking with the rest of the world.
“A city can never quite know what it will become after hosting an expo,” Chappell said. “But it’s a safe bet it will never be the same again and they’ll forever cherish that time.
Carter Jones, Minnesota Daily | October 22, 2015
The Minneapolis City Council voted to support the designation of Minnesota as the official site of Expo 2023. Mayor Betsy Hodges and Council President Barbara Johnson wrote the following letter of support.
Minnesota officials continue to push for the state as a contender for an event considered as big as 10 consecutive Olympic Games.
The Minneapolis City Council approved a letter of support for “Expo 2023” on Wednesday, outlining the reasons why the city and the surrounding metro area would be an ideal place for such an event.
“The city has embraced 2023 Expo’s theme of ‘Wellness and Well Being for All,’” the letter states. “We have a long tradition of establishing strong relationships with cities throughout the world through our Sister Cities program. Our colleges and universities have educated and been enriched by students from all corners of the globe. Many of our global students have remained in Minneapolis and the region to start companies or work for local firms.”
The letter also highlights large events hosted in the region in the past, as well as a dedication to health and wellbeing in the state.
While the letter approved Wednesday shows Minneapolis’ willingness to host Expo 2023, it still needs to be approved by the full council.
Recently, a 19-member delegation returned from a trip to the ongoing World’s Fair in Milan, in an effort to find out what it takes to land such a large event. Two more delegations will travel to Milan this month before that World’s Fair concludes.
Rebecca Omastiak, KSTP | October 7, 2015 – 3:42 PM
It’s an event billed as being as big as 10 consecutive Olympic Games, and it could be held in Minnesota.
A small team of Minnesotans is quietly trying to lure a slightly smaller version of the World’s Fair to the Twin Cities. The event has been dubbed “Expo 2023.”
A 19-member delegation just returned from a trip to the ongoing World’s Fair in Milan, in an effort to find out what it takes to land such a huge event.
Stephen Tellier, KSTP | September 14, 2015 – 10:00 PM
Minnesota Expo 2023 named in Host City interview with International Expositions Bureau (BIE)’s Dimitri Kerkentzes
Ben Avison, Host City | September 1, 2015 – 10:36 AM
Original Host City article HERE
Hosting a World Expo requires space, investment and a long term development plan. Get the mix right and it’s a platform to reach the world, says Dimitri Kerkentzes, chief of staff at the International Expositions Bureau (BIE)
To say that hosting a World or International Expo is a major undertaking would be an understatement of the biggest order.
“Whether we are talking about an International Expo or a World Expo, these are three to six month events. They are not the three weeks of the Olympic Games or the four weeks of the World Cup,” Dimitri Kerkentzes, chief of staff at the International Expositions Bureau (BIE) told HOST CITY.
The World Expo Milan 2015, which is running from 1 May through to the end of October, covers a site of 100 hectares with 145 countries participating.
Exhibiting nations install themselves on an Expo site up to a year in advance to build their pavilions, which can take up to a year after the Expo to dismantle.
“Even in the case of a smaller International Expo, we are talking about hosting people for a minimum of six to eight months. So this is quite a feat.”
Undeterred by the scale of the project, cities from all over the world continue to vie for the hosting rights. The Kazakh capital Astana is hosting the 2017 International Expo, for which the Belgian city of Liege also applied.
Hosting an event on this scale is a rare opportunity to reaching the global public.
“Whatever the major event is, whether it be cultural or sporting, it’s for them an opening up to the world.
“It’s the president’s point of view that Kazakhstan should be one of the world’s top 30 developed countries within the coming years. And this is an opportunity for them to show what they can accomplish and what they have accomplished.
“You’ve seen a lot of developing countries deciding that they want to invite the world to be present in their cities and it’s one of the best ways for them to achieve this.”
Dubai won the right to host the 2020 World Expo, rising above competition from Izmir in Turkey, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Sao Paulo in Brazil.
Already an international city renowned for as a hub for business, Dubai sees the World Expo as an opportunity to project a new image to the world.
“They are a very particular case where a country, which is basically a desert country, has to be able to deal with modern infrastructure and living requirements – and this is one of the key points where they are trying to brand themselves with the Expo; it’s how not only are they a hub, but they are a sustainable hub.”
Dubai is aiming to attract at least 20 million visitors in 2020 but, says Kerkentzes, achieving this will require about 70 per cent of visitors to come from overseas.
By way of contrast, the 2010 World Expo in Shanghai attracted 73 million visitors in six months, just seven to eight per cent of whom were overseas visitors.
“The true meaning of an Expo is that the messages and the education is for the global public, not limited to one subsection of global citizens.
“And then you have to be realistic – there are certain Expos where you may have more foreign visitors than you do locals.”
Astana has less than a million inhabitants in a country with a population of around 18 million. “What we expect to see there is – apart from the usual Expo lovers that travel from all over the world – citizens of Kazakhstan and also the neighboring countries.”
Who’s bidding for Expo 2025?
Milan is on course to hit its target of 20 million visitors and the event is attracting other global cities to bid for future Expos, Kerkentzes says.
“Proof of the fact that the World Expo is useful even in an economic powerhouse of a city like Milan is the fact that for 2025 we already have interest from Paris, from London, from Rotterdam, from Osaka and Johannesburg – so it shows that the case that Milan has been looked at by major European and world cities and they want to perhaps try and do the same themselves in 2025.”
The UK government has said that it will bid but has not yet said which city it will put forward to bid in 2016. The BIE has been contacted by several UK cities.
“The UK showed how good an Olympic Games could be for a city. London is one of the most famous capitals in the world, so why not try and brand other UK cities as well and use an Expo to do it? It’s very logical and it’s something the government will have to take into close consideration and make a final decision on next year.”
Similarly, other cities in France are interested in getting involved in an Expo bid. “It would have to be the government that would decide which would be the bidding cities.”
US cities such as Houston and Silicon Valley have also expressed an interest in hosting an Expo, but as the national government has not paid its BIE membership since 2001 it would need to be successfully lobbied before any bid could be lodged.
“There is a very strong pressure from Minnesota to bid for Expo 2023 and they are working on trying to get the government to re-join the BIE,” says Kerkentzes.
The Canadian government also withdrew from the BIE in 2012. “Canada hosted many Expos in the past and has always participated in Expos. I know that there is very keen interest from the new Mayor to maybe bid for 2025, but he has to work on the internal politics on bringing Canada back.”
The cities expressing an interest in hosting the 2025 World Expo are largely developed, western world cities.
“If you were to receive only developing cities or developing countries, people could criticize, saying Expos are no longer for developed countries and global cities like New York, London and Paris. There are always improvements that can be made in a city and I think an Expo can always help in that.”
Cities can submit a bid for a world Expo nine years before the proposed opening date of the next Expo. The BIE expects bids for 2025 to start arriving in the first and second quarter of 2016, with the voting for the event set to take place either at the end of 2017 or mid-2018.
The bids will be judged on a number of criteria – not just the theme.
“From the BIE, to ensure that Expos remain very high value for the candidates and the hosts, we have to make sure that there are positive impacts from all sides.
“Theme is of course primordial in an Expo; it has to be something of global interest, but we have to make sure all the other points are properly looked at and taken care of.”
“The location is key as well, to make sure that people can get there, that it’s an interesting place to visit and that it can attract tourism that it requires.”
But just as the International Olympic Committee has increased its emphasis on the sustainability and legacy benefit of hosting the Games through its Agenda 2020 program of reform, the BIE places great emphasis on how hosting an Expo can boost a city’s development plans.
“We have to make sure that the Expo can be of benefit to the host city, that it can help with its branding, it can help with its development – and that what will be left behind after the Expo will be of use to the city and to its citizens.
“I think it’s important to remember that the infrastructure that’s built around these events is not purely for the event itself; it’s infrastructure that’s already foreseen in the development of the city and the country. And whether it’s an Expo, an Olympics or the World Cup, this is just a catalyst to get it done quicker.
“Lessons have been learned. All the organizations responsible for these different mega events are putting them into action now and making sure that, no matter which type of event a city goes for, it will be of benefit to the world but also to the country and the city that’s hosting it.”
With this in mind, the potential rewards of hosting an Expo are great, Kerkentzes says.
“Usually you see from reports after an Expo that the participating countries found the investment has been well spent; that the amount of communication and branding for their own country abroad has helped growth in tourism and in sales.”
Dimitri Kerkentzes is to speak at HOST CIY 2015 on 9th and 10th November on the subject of “How Cities and Events Innovate to Thrive”.
The USA Pavilion welcomed over 34,000 people on August 11th. In the first ten days of August, the pavilion has seen a 47% increase in its visitors, compared to the first ten days of July.
For more info on the daily “food talks” taking place at the US pavilion, check out: http://blogs.state.gov/stories/2015/08/07/conversations-change-terrace-talks-usa-pavilion-milan-expo