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Joey Chernov

Expo 2017 report

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Hi all.

I spent a week in Astana from August 1-7 making my first international trip and first world expo. 

I thought the Exposition grounds were wonderfully organized; one could walk easily in between countries. Each building had an art installation in the center of their central walkway that represented energy from the wind, water, solar and the land, respectively. Food kiosks were placed along this walkway offering food ranging from cafe sandwiches to local fast food to burgers. Between the architecture of the buildings, planted trees and art installations, the area in front of the pavilion clusters was rather efficiently decorated while still maintaining beauty. The main square in front of Nur Alem featured the only fountains and flower displays across the whole grounds, however, and added nice visuals. 

Nur Alem is just as magnificent as it was hyped to be; eight levels offering the latest technologies and applications for future energy; the "Museum of Future Energy" as it was called will remain after the fair closes. That, along with two food courts and a concert hall, are expected to be the expo site's cultural landmarks once the site becomes a financial center next year. The first floor of the structure houses the Kazakh National pavilion. To actually enter the sphere itself, you must ride in one of eight elevators to the top level and work your way down. The flow of visitors throughout the sphere was self-explanatory, but it was possible to go to a specific floor if you asked an elevator attendant.

I thought the Theme pavilion I was the better of the two thematic experiences. The multimedia show with the dozens of silver balls and copper rings was one of my favourite experiences from the entire fair and it was followed up nicely with a presentation of a future city - complete with a model. It very effectively inspired and proliferated the ideas promoted at Expo. On the other hand, Thematic Pavilion 2's most memorable quality to me was the black drop of oil used as an activity key - it was representative of the last drop of oil our species is dependent on.

As for the international pavilions, most of them were nicely done. Highlights included the 'mirror wave' in Monaco, the laser infinity room in Poland, and Russia's chunk of Arctic ice. Switzerland played into an ingenious application of future energy by building a gigantic, human-powered playground full of bicycles and levers. Some pavilions used a combination of live performance with video while others were nothing more than infosigns on a wall. The queues were longest for South Korea and Germany. While the 20 minutes or so for Germany wasn't too bad, South Korea's was at 30 minutes most of the time and over 60 often! The poor Korean line attendant looked wholly exasperated every time I'd walk by. Shell's Energy Lab was very interactive and was far more accommodating to all ages than the others. You could even run around like a human hamster inside of a zorb ball generating electrical current for the building.

The nightly parade through the exposition grounds was also one of the fair's highlights. The three and a half minute parade artistically highlighted each form of future energy on display while also paying homage to Kazakh culture. (I have a recording of the entire event on youtube, which I have linked here.)  Souvenirs were available at each entrance and all offered the same semi-limited supply. Wares included magnetic sets of Baikonur, Astana, or the expo, a few T-shirts and jackets, ties, pens, snow globes, phone cases, pins,  and various electronic accessories. They did offer Expo Passports and had rather large amounts. Expo volunteers also near the entrances gave any passerby within 50 feet multiple maps of the grounds and were rather adamant I took them. My only major issues were that there weren't any water fountains available at all (and the one I did find, on the second floor of the Best Practices area, wasn't even connected) and that only one in ten of the electronic charging stations worked. Coke offered four cubes to charge devices in and each one of the aforementioned thematic art installations could charge probably 20 devices each. However, only around 2-3 of the USB charging ports were actually wired up.

I visited the Expo every day while I was there, though some days I went sightseeing in Astana beforehand. Many of the city's landmarks had been opened up especially for tourists visiting the Expo including the Nazarbayev Center and the Palace of Peace and Reconciliation. The famed Bayterek tower opened earlier in the summer after undergoing an extensive renovation for Expo. Advertising was EVERYWHERE. Every construction site had Expo wrapping on their chain link fences, the sides of buildings were lit up at night with Expo light signs, and the tricoloured logo leaves were everywhere. Astana had never experienced tourism before the Expo opened, and everywhere I turned there were people eager to welcome the world. The overwhelming consensus from the individuals I encountered was that the Expo is good for bringing international interest to the city but bad because the government stripped everyone's pensions to help pay for Expo. They are supposed to be reinstated once the event is over.

All in all, Astana was an incredible city and a perfect host for an Event such as Expo. Additionally, the futurism of the city helped shape Expo to become the cultural event of year, with over two million visitors to the fairgrounds alone. Personally, I feel this expo is more memorable than the recent ones since Shanghai, but only in terms of standout architecture and exhibits. For those who have been to Yesou, Milano, and Astana, is this a fair statement? I've attached a few photos but have most of them posted in my flickr album.

 

 

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Just returned home from my visit and I would echo just about everything in this review. Nur Alem was easily the most impressive pavilion I've seen in the 3 expos I've attended (Yeosu, Milan, Astana), and Astana is indeed the perfect place to host a 3-month expo at this point in the city's history.

 

We only did two days at Expo, but were there from open to close, and managed to visit everything except for Germany and Thematic Pavilion II. Would have liked to see Germany but lines were long and it sounded like they had another lengthy presentation similar to the one in Milan, which I really didn't care for. A third day would have been useful for pacing but used that time to take a wonderful day trip to Burabay and Kokshetau, so no regrets. 

I brought along three people who hadn't previously been to an expo, and they are all hooked and can't wait for Dubai :)

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