Five years after Shanghai hosted one of the most successful World Expos, it’s Italy’s turn to host the six-month extravaganza. The food-based-fair, which opened last Friday, will revolve around the “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life” theme, with 145 countries from around the world showcasing their efforts to create sustainable food sources.
Previous world fairs have bought us iconic products such as tomato ketchup as well as world-famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower.
Italy, like many other countries that have hosted the event, hopes it will provide a much-needed boost to its economy. However, the run-up to the Expo has been far from plain-sailing for the nation, plagued with scandal, corruption, and financial obstacles.
2010's World Expo in Shanghai was one of the most successful to date, with over 70 million visitors and more than 20 heads of state attending the opening ceremony, pictured below.
Milan is hoping to follow in its footsteps. Officials expect the arrival of Expo 2015 will provide a much-needed boost to its economy and signal a reinvention of the city's image, turning it into a 'smart' city that can play a major role on the 21st century stage.
Organisers have made sure that the event, which cost over 1 billion euros started with a bang as world-class tenor Andrea Bocelli performed at a star-studded opening ceremony at Piazza Duomo, which also included an appearance via video link from the Pope.
However, behind the opulent facade, the event is plagued with scandal, corruption, and financial obstacles, such as cost overruns in an already fragile economy.
Last year, one of the event's managers and six other senior politicians and businessmen, were arrested and charged with corruption. The men were allegedly caught on camera offering bribes to secure contracts.
There have been several cost overruns in the construction process. Construction company Italiana Costruzioni incurred additional costs of €29 million for the Italian pavilio. Three other companies involved in the construction process, Mantovani, CMC, and Maltauro have also requested €120 million more than the initially agreed figure.
This means vast swathes of the 110 hectare site are not ready for the first day of the event. This photo, from two weeks before the event began, shows the site was still a mass of trucks raising dust and workers in hard hats racing to finish.
Thousands of anti-globalisation and environmentalist protesters took to the streets the day before the event opened. They see the expo as a capitalist symbol of mass waste and corruption.
One of the protesters told the International Business Times: 'The expo does not aim to resolve the problem of global hunger and does not address the question that many ask: Why do people not have access to food and water?'
Officials are remaining optimistic about the event. They expect Italian GDP to increase between 10-14 billion euros ($11-15 billion). Some say that is a wildly optimistic figure.
Despite the Expo being embroiled in negative press, and despite large sections of it remaining unopened, it still managed to attract visitors on its opening day. Though it remains unlikely to compete with Shanghai's 2010 entry.
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