A Look at Upcoming World Expos, Olympic Games, and Other Mega-Events
by Gordon Linden
from FUNWORLD (International Association of Amusement Parks & Attractions) November 2001
Planning for world events 15 years from now is already in the works. Here’s a look at what’s on the horizon.
The biggest news on the world’s fair front is the stated intention of the United Sates to withdraw from the Bureau of International Expositions. The BIE, based in Paris, is the international diplomatic body that registers and regulates world’s fairs. At this writing, U.S. government functionaries had drafted a letter recommending that the United States withdraw from this world body, and the letter was awaiting action by Secretary of State Colin Powell.
In the not-too-distant past, the United States was an exemplary host of, and participant, in international mega-events like these. But its participation has steadily waned. The trend reached an all-time low last year when the United States failed to participate in Hanover Expo 2000 – the first time in more than 100 years that the country has not been present at a major international exposition. On home ground, the United States has not hosted a world’s fair since the Louisiana World Exposition, New Orleans, in 1984.
But despite ebbing U.S. participation and despite major disappointments in attendance and financial returns at two millenial European events last year (Expo 2000 in Hanover, germany, and London’s Millennium Experience) cities are busily organizing, planning and bidding to host future world-scale events.
Los Angeles, Cincinnatti, Dallas, Houston, New York, Tampa and Washington, D.C./Baltimore are currently vying to host the 2012 Summer Olympic Games. Each city has struggled mightily to drum up funding and support to mount its bid. Ironically, at the same time these bids were being put together by volunteers and supporters, several major U.S.-based corporations – IBM, General Motors, Coca Cola – spent heavily to assist Beijing with its successful bid for 2008. As for 2012, when interviewed recently, Mitt Romney, head of the Salt Lake Winter Olympics 2002 Organizing Committee, predicted that a U.S. would be a long shot. The International Olympic Committee is still smarting from problems at the 1996 Atlanta Games, plus the investigation by the U.S. Congress of IOC methods in awarding the Games to Salt Lake City (and elsewhere) was an unwelcome intrusion into the organization’s affairs.
Holland’s Floriade 2002 promises a highly attractive garden environment for it’s anticipated 3 million visitors.
The Swiss National Exhibition,
Neuchatel, and Yverdon-les-Bains
May 15 to October20
Organizers project that Expo.02 will attract 5 million visitors (10 million attendance, assuming two visits per guest). Expo.02 will be staged in four separate cities in the part of the country known as the Land of the Three Lakes. All sites are accessible via Switzerland’s excellent rail system. Switzerland has a history of national exhibitions – the last held in Lausanne in 1964 – and Expo.02 continues this tradition. While there are no international participants, the event is organized like a traditional world’s fair, with opening and closing ceremonies, theme days, entertainment, stage-set architecture, and temporary structures. When the expo concept was first raised in the 1990�s, Switzerland was in the throes of an economic downturn, and the projcct was promoted as a means to generate jobs, particularly for young people. The expo was also seen as a vehicle for renewing the country’s international image in the wake of the controversy surrounding the handling of bank deposits received by Swiss banks during World War II. But time has faded these headlines. Expo.02, like all such events, will be judged primarily for its ability to entertain and educate visitors and the press.
Feel the Art of Nature,
Haarlemmermeer, the Netherlands
April 6 to October 20
This international garden exposition is held every 10 years in the Netherlands, and Floriade 2002, sited close to Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, is the fifth since its inception. Organizers project an attendance of 3 million, including 150,000 horticultural trade visitors. The show, which attracts domestic and international participants, is regulated by the International Association of Horticultural Producers and registered with the BIE. Floriade 2002 has attracted nearly 30 international participants and will offer several themed gardens and displays. Because of the importance of the flower trade to the Netherlands, interest in and support for the garden show format are well-established among both the public and private sectors. Occasionally this format (and the BIE tie-in, which allows official participation on the national level from all BIE member states) is used to stage larger, more ambitious events with corporate pavilions, as in Osaka, Japan, in 1990.
Newport News/Williamsburg Airport, Va.
April 7 to 27
Plans to stage the “world’s largest, most comprehensive aviation centennial event” commemorating the Wright Brothers’ historic flight in 1903 are being formulated by a private group – Aviation World’s Fair Inc. – a part of Kallman Worldwide Inc., which is active in the organization and management of trade fairs throughout the world. The event presents a variety of flying and static displays, including international exhibit halls, national pavilions, and Aviation Heritage Halls. The promoters have projected attendance at more than 1 million, with 1,600 exhibitors and 140 aireraft. A 100-acre site at the airport has been designated to accommodate new structures. The overall budget for the show is $54 million.
IGA 2003: International
April 25 to October 12
IGA events are staged in various locations around the world every 10 years and hosted under the auspices of the Association of Horticultural Exhibitions and recognized by the BIE. Germany has a long tradition of national horticultural exhibitions and, in recent years, their scope has grown to encompass city and regional planning concerns. Rostock, population 250,000, is on the north coast of the Baltic Sea. The idea of hosting the garden show here was first raised after the country’s reunification. The event will provide a vehicle for the regeneration of a 100-hectare (250-acre) site. The event is expected to involve the participation of 30 to 35 countries, and attract an attendance of three million. The $120 million budget includes construction of a $30 million main hall.
Seine-Saint Denis, France
May 7-August 7
Throughout the history of BIE-sanctioned international expositions, France has been a dutiful and loyal flagbearer, participating in all past expos with significant pavilions and exhibits, and in May 2001, the BIE sanctioned an international exposition on the theme “images” to be held in the Ile-de-France region outside Paris. The site of the expo will be the Aires des Vents in Dugny, which is part of a 440-hectare park. The theme has a historic significance for this region, which was an early center for French filmmaking and film production (George Melies’s first studio was located here and Pathe Films later ran studios here). Today, the region boasts a concentration of firms and businesses involved in multimedia and communications.
Seto 2005 Seto, Japan
March 25-September 25
Japan’s 2005 World Exposition will be held in Seto City, Nagakute Town, Toyota City, in Aichi Prefecture. Organizers project attendance of 15 million. Toyota City, near Seto City, is, as its name implies, an important automotive industry center, and the Toyota Company, along with several other major companies, is footing one-third of the costs of the event, the other two-thirds of which are provided by local and central government. Concerns were raised about Expo 2005 when, due to changing economic conditions in Japan, the pursestrings were drawn in around the finances for the Nagano Winter Olympics. But plans for the event have continued unabated. The event’s theme, Nature�s Wisdom, follows the drift of other Asian expos – such as Tsukuba 85 and Taejon 93 – which have sought to present a message of reconciliation between economic development and the environment.
Thessaloniki, Greece: Thessiloniki�s proposal tohost an expo in 2007 follows an earlier, similar announcement from Athens, which has apparently been dropped. As Greece’s second largest city (population 1 million), Thessaloniki, located in the north of Greece, has a very active port serving maritime traffic from Macedonia, Albania, and Bulgaria. With fresh strife in nearby Macedonia between the government and ethnic-Albanian rebels, concerns about civil war may make it difficult to attract iniernational support for an expo here.
Trieste, Italy: Trieste is a small port city (population 270,000) nestled in the northeast tip of Italy, close to the Yugoslav border; Austria lies just north. While Italy has long been a country divided by a wealthy north and a poor south, there are recent signs that some decentralization is taking places and Trieste, led by a coffee-broker mayor, has shown some signs of vitality. The city is onIy 45 minutes from the capital of Slovenia, Ljubljana, and plans are afoot to develop new roads between Budapest and to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. These stirrings of boosterism have led to thoughts of ambitious projects, including an expo.
Atlanta, Ga., USA: Last year, a group of local business and community leaders in Atlanta commissioned studies to explore a 2007 world’s fair. The studies predicted potential attendance of nearly 24 million and efforts were initiated to identify and secure a site. The management of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, with sufficient land area and some of the required infrastructure and facilities, expressed preliminary interest. The would-be expo organizers received two setbacks: first, when the United States failed to participate in Hanover Expo 2000 – and second, when the U.S. government started the machinery to withdraw from the BIE.
Oklahoma City, OkIa., USA, www.oklahomacentennial.com: The Oklahoma Capitol Complex and Centennial Commission is preparing plans to celebrate Oklahoma’s one-hundredth year of statehood in 2007. The Commission is currently seeking ideas for projects and events. Oklahoma City previously prepared a bid in 1984 to host a BIE-sanctioned event in 1989, which was to celebrate the centennial of the Oklahoma Land Rush or “The Run of 1889,” and the possibility of reviving this proposal may be one of the ideas being discussed.
Zaragoza, Spain: Zaragoza, capital of the Aragon province, is attempting to get on the international map with a world expo, and BIE representatives visited in May 2001. Five sites were being evaluated, and the local boosters received words of encouragement from the visitors, who included BIE Secretary General Vincente Loscertales, a Spaniard. The selected theme for the event is “Cities for the Twenty-First Century – The Renaissance of the Cities.” The date will commemorate the two hundredth anniversary of the 1808 Sieges of Zaragoza, when the city was almost totally destroyed by war. The date also coincides with the 1908 International French Hispanic Bxposition that gave rebirth to the city.
Shanghai, China, www.expo2010china.com: Having a population in excess of 13 million people, Shanghai is China’s leadmg industrial city. Its port handles most of the country’s foreign shipping. Infrastructure improvements in the past decade include a new subway system, new international airport, and new bridges and tunnels. China has participated actively, if not lavishly, at recent world expos and successfully hosted a horticultural fair in Kunming in 1999. With the recent selection of Beijing as host for the 2008 Summer Olympics and continued world interest in expanding trade with China, the Shanghai bid comes as no surprise. The mission of the expo, according to promoters, is to create greater awareness of Shanghai and China and to attract foreign investment. The proposed event would coincide with the centennial of China’s one previous international expo, Nanking 1910.
Moscow, Russia: The proposed Moscow site is an existing exposition area that organizers claim will require considerable financial effort to renovate and develop. While numerous proposals for Moscow to host events (such as Olympic Games), and develop major visitor attractions (such as theme parks), have been floated around over the past decade, the wherewithal to carry them beyond the idea stage has so far been missing. Whether this initiative will prosper is not certain.
Buenos Aires, Argentina: Over the past decade, Argentina’s precarious financial situation has alternately raised and dashed hopes to recapture the glory of its capital city. Buenos Aires, once called the “Paris of South America,” has had several recent runs at revitalization and repositioning including an unsuccessful bid for the 2004 Summer Olympics. Now, cautious planning has begun to present Buenos Aires’ candidacy to host Expo 2010. Proponents have engaged the services of Rod McGeogh, the Australian public relations adviser who successfully brought the 2000 Summer Olympics to Sydney. Studies are under way. The year 2010 coincides with the hundredth anniversary of the first Argentine Republic and the end of Spanish domination of the region. In 1910, Buenos Aires also hosted the International Agriculture Exposition.
Yoesu, Korea, www.2010expo.or.kr/: The year 2010 will mark the tenth anniversary of the Inter-Korea Summit, and promoters portray this expo as a vehicle for continued improvement in relations between North and South Korea. Like the 1993 Taejon Expo, this event would also promote the decentralization of the country, which has historically focused on its capital, Seoul. Its theme is “Sea and Land for a New Community.” The relatively small maritime and industrial city of Yoesu is located on the southern tip of the Korean peninsula and has a population of 330,000. Promotional materials project an attendance of 30 million. Korea has successfully hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics and will cohost, with Japan, the 2002 World Cup.
Wroclaw, Poland, www.expo2010.pl: When Budapest was approved for a 1996 expo (which was subsequently canceled for political and financial reasons) the BIE was anxious to help Eastern Europe engage the international community. Many former Soviet bloc countries participated at recent expos in Hanover and Lisbon, and it is likely that at some point an expo will be held in this part of the world. Focusing on the theme “Culture, Medicine, Media,” Wroclaw (population 642,000) – center of the Lower Silesia region, which borders Germany and the Czech Republic – seeks to host Poland’s first world’s fair. A 200-hectare site has been identified, while improvements in housing, road, and rail connections have been solicited from the government.
San Francisco, Calif., USA, www.worldexpo20l5.com: Over the past five years, several exploratory studies about hosting an expo in the San Francisco area were commissioned by various parties including the City and Port of Oakland, the City of San Francisco, and Pan Pacific Expo, a private group. Studies were conducted for sites including Treasure Island, former site of the 1939-1940 Golden Gate International Exposition. The studies indicated strong market supports for such an event – attendance in excess of 20 million visits – and generally favorable response, but none of these proposals has yet moved beyond the exploratory stage.
Gordon Linden is manager of project development services for Parsons Corp. He has worked on a variety of world expos and mega-events, including the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Budapest Expo 96, a proposed 2002 Expo in Hong Kong, the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and the Athens 2004 Olympic Village. In his spare time, he is writing a book about the role of railroads