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Dion Kucera

Expo 2015 Comparisons with the past?

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So I did end up visiting Expo 2015 in Milan, and I'm curious about everyone's take on it that has visited. Alisoguy gave a great overview of the Expo itself, and having visited I'd agree with pretty much everything he had to say.

As this was my first world's fair, I'm really interested to get people's perspective specifically on how this fair compares to past fairs. I know Shanghai was huge and that every fair has a different theme and is laid out differently. There may be no "typical" world's fair, but how does Milan compare with world's fairs of the past?

I traveled on a limited budget and was able to see the fair for three days plus an extra two days in Milan (I saw other things in Italy as well). I feel that any less than three full days is impossible to see the majority of the fair. In three full days I was able to see all of the major pavilions including Pavilion Zero, the future food district (which includes the supermarket of the future), and most of the thematic areas. However, I felt I went perhaps too fast in some of the pavilions.

Personally, I felt the fair was a blown up version of Epcot. Lots of pavilions, lots of people in the pavilions doing things native to their country, and lots of food. However, Expo 2015 was tied together with a theme, whereas Epcot is not. I felt some of the pavilions were excellent. The Japanese, German, and UAE pavilions really stood out to me and were some of my favorite ones. I thought Pavilion Zero was perhaps the best pavilion at the fair, since it got down to the real meat of the food theme more so than the other pavilions.

Yet, I felt many pavilions had difficulty engaging with the food theme short of showing us their national dishes, or to have their pavilion operate as a way to drum up tourism. I guess the tourism aspect makes sense since so many millions visit the fair, but I felt it was more common than I expected, at the expense of addressing the fair's theme. In general, I was unimpressed with the U.S. pavilion (especially compared to other pavilions at the fair), but at least the U.S. earnestly tried to engage the theme while some pavilions did not. Many of the pavilions sold food, although not all of it was great. I was unimpressed with the Chinese food at the Chinese pavilion, but I thought the Kazakhstan pavilion and the Qatar pavilions were excellent. I also ate at the Argentina and the Colombia pavilions, which I thought were fine but not fantastic. In terms of quality of food and ambience I thought the Qatar pavilion was the best place to eat at the fair.

From visiting the fair I'd say the fair's theme boils down to: the challenges of maintaining global food security despite an ever growing global population and climate change.

I really enjoyed the future food district and the supermarket of the future. While I've mentioned my favorite pavilions, I thought the most interesting one was North Korea's. They didn't attempt to engage the theme at all and their small pavilion was a glorified gift shop. Their items are sold at deep discounts compared to other pavilions. Many of the small pavilions didn't try to really engage the theme but just sold lots of goods. Is this common across fairs? And what benefit do some of these countries (some of the poorest countries in the world had a presence) have by paying money to be at the fair?

That's sort of a lot, but most importantly I'm curious what others think about how this fair compares to past world's fairs. Thanks.

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Personally I think it would be great for the BIE to abandon the forced theme on Expos, and just let pavilion exhibitors go with whatever message or "vision" they want to tell about themselves.  In past World's Fairs or big Expos, the more free reign given to exhibitors,... well, that's when we got really amazed and excited.  (not that I would be amazed with North Korean trinkets... LOL....now if they were giving away free "bowl cut junior" haircuts in honor of "fearless leader" I would at least stop to take pictures... haha)

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Dion, I visited Expo 2015 in May and enjoyed it immensely.  While it was larger than I expected, the size of the individual pavilions was much smaller than those at Shanghai and Seville as well as those fairs held in the 60s.  The BIE has in the past, based on the experiences at the unofficial New York World's Fairs, discouraged countries from building pavilions that were actually souvenir shops.  I'd guess North Korea, which was housed in a building about the size of the average American living room, and a few others got around that by putting a few pictures on the wall as "exhibits."

Also, regarding your observations about Qatar and Kazakhstan, countries from that general region are now building pavilions and mounting exhibits of a size and quality that General Motors, Ford and General Electric built at the 1964-64 NYWF.

(Although no pavilion compared in size to GM or Ford at New York.)

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Thanks for the descriptions Dan,

I'm heading out in September and I particularly appreciate the food summary as sampling different cuisines is an aspect my long suffering OH particularly appreciates. And apart from India and Australia (who often repeat there excellent offerings) what's good in one is not an indication of good the next.

> I thought the most interesting one was North Korea's. They didn't attempt to engage the theme at all and their small pavilion was a glorified gift shop.

My first fair was Hannover - and there it was hard to see anything other than shop in the Pakistan pavilion - there was a tiny bit but in the right in the middle of what felt like acres of furniture. And one in Shanghai (Iran I think) the displays where well hidden behind food store. But the ratio on shop/advertising/food/display tells you something about the countries I guess.



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