Minnesota, Poland and Argentina compete to host World's Fair
Minnesota is hoping to host the first World's Fair on U.S. soil in nearly 40 years. But it will have to overcome many bids. One is from Poland's third-largest city. That city is Lodz. Another bid is from the Argentina. It is for the capital. The capital is Buenos Aires. That is where a winner will be selected in the coming days.
World's Fairs introduced several landmarks. Those include the Eiffel Tower. It includes the Space Needle. And it includes the Ferris Wheel. But they have lost some of their cultural relevance. This has happened in an age of globalization and cheap air travel. World's Fairs are now called World Expos. They are the largest events held every five years. There are specialized expos for smaller ones in other years. The events still draw millions of visitors. They allow hosts to show off.
The Bureau of International Expositions will choose the site of the 2022 or 2023 specialized expo on Wednesday in Paris. Minnesota's theme is health and wellness. Lodz's theme is the reinvention of cities. Buenos Aires' highlights creative industries in the digital era.
Here's a closer look:
WHAT ARE EXPOS?
Expos are global events. They are aimed at "educating the public, sharing innovations, promoting progress and fostering cooperation." That's according to the BIE. They're meant to bring the world together. They are meant to find solutions to some fundamental challenge of humanity. Visitors tour pavilions. Participating countries and organizations showcase their contributions on the theme. Experts and diplomats attend conferences on the sidelines.
Six-month-long world expos are held every five years. There are also smaller, three-month "specialized expos.“ They focus on specific themes. This is what the BIE is currently considering. These fall in between. World leaders often visit.
"Expos remind us that there is much more that binds us together than separates us." That's according to Jim Core. He is director of the international exhibitions unit. He works at the U.S. State Department.
Many Americans have lost sight of how big these events are. That's because the U.S. hasn't hosted one since New Orleans. That was in 1984. But the Milan World Expo in 2015 drew around 20 million visitors. This summer's specialized expo on Future Energy was in Astana. That is in Kazakhstan. It drew 4 million people. The 2020 Dubai World Expo is expected to draw about 25 million. That's according to BIE.
Minnesota has proposed a specialized expo for 2023. It's theme is "Healthy People, Healthy Planet." It would trade on the state's reputation as a center of innovation and excellence in health and wellness. That's according to Mark Ritchie. He is the former Minnesota Secretary of State. He is the leader of the bid committee. Minnesota is home to world-class health care institutions. These include the Mayo Clinic. It includes medical device makers such as Medtronic. And it includes insurers such as UnitedHealth.
The site would be near the Mall of America. It is one of the country's biggest shopping centers. It is located in the Minneapolis suburb of Bloomington. The committee projects that it will draw around 12 million visitors. This includes nearly 220,000 international visitors. This would produce a total impact on the local economy of $1.5 billion.
The State Department is vigorously lobbying on Minnesota's behalf. It is a bigger diplomatic effort than Poland's or Argentina's, Ritchie said. It has hosted events in Washington, Paris and other cities. Its embassies and consulates around the world are promoting the bid. It also brought foreign ambassadors to Minnesota. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan will be in Paris. He will cast the U.S. vote.
The U.S. left the Bureau of International Expositions in 2001. That's because congressional interest waned. This followed the end of the Cold War, said Matthew Asada. He works for the State Department. He is the expo program officer. But President Donald Trump signed a bill in May. He said the "U.S. Wants to Compete for a World Expo Act,.” He wants to rejoin. He wants to put the U.S. back in the game.
The bid theme of the central Polish city of Lodz for 2022 is "City Re: Invented." It focuses the revitalization of post-industrial cities. The city's expo website says the event would kick-start a second wave of modernization. It would share Poland's expertise in "urban regeneration" with the rest of the world.
"Lodz is writing an extraordinary story of how to successfully combat a permanent social and infrastructural crisis," the website states. The city expects about 8 million visitors.
Lodz is Poland's third-largest city. It is an hour away from the capital. The capital is Warsaw. It became a thriving industrial city. This happened in the 19th century. But it lost momentum after communist rule ended. That was in 1989. The demise of its big textile plants fueled unemployment. It also fueled decay. But the city says it has undergone a rebirth lately. This includes the restoration of many of the inner city's richly decorated tenement houses. Those are from the late 1800s. It has also seen revitalization around the main railroad station.
Buenos Aires has offered a 2023 expo. It is on "Creative Industries in Digital Convergence." If approved, it would be the first expo in Latin America. That is under the auspices of the BIE. BIE began operations in 1931. Several were held in Latin America before then, though.
"It will be a celebration of human creativity, in which no one should be left out." That's according to Gabriela Ricardes. She is an Argentine government minister.
Buenos Aires expects over 6 million visitors. This includes 250,000 international tourists. "They will be able to discover the latest innovations in the technological industries. The newest proposals from the world of creativity. And multimedia, artistic, scientific and technological content from Argentina and the participating countries," its expo website says.