Milan will host the 2015 EXPO after winning the final vote in Paris against the Turkish city of Smirne. The news was received with great satisfaction all over Italy. It comes at the right time to revive optimism in the country after the Naples trash crisis and the bad economic situation had led to “a winter of discontent”.
Undoubtedly, the figure most closely involved in preparing Milan’s triumph was its mayor Letizia Moratti. After it was announced that the city had beaten Smirne by 86 to 64 votes, Moratti said that she is “pleased for Milan but also pleased for the rest of the world as this will be a universal exposition for the world as a whole.”
The projects for the great occasion are very ambitious. Milan is planning to set landmarks both in terms of culture and technology. As the exposition’s most striking innovation the organizers plan to erect a tower of 200 metres in the middle of the international pavilions. The whole exposition area will cover 110 hectares, half of it on natural green space. It is expected that the event will attract around 29 million visitors and generate 44 billion Euros for businesses in Milan.
The economic factor is certainly significant whenever an event as huge as the Olympics, the World Cup or indeed as the EXPO is awarded. But in this case, Milan’s victory also has an intangible value which cannot be measured in monetary terms. This is because of two factors characterizing the current situation of Italy.
Firstly, the exposition will give the country a forum to present itself in the eyes of the world after making negative headlines in recent times, be it through the ongoing trash crisis in Naples, the political deadlock or the lack of economic growth of the last couple of years. Some foreigners may forget that Italy (and in particular the region around Milan) is in many sectors at the cutting edge of technological and business innovation. The EXPO will provide the opportunity to remind the world of this little-noticed reality.
Secondly, the exposition is a chance to mend relations between Milan, the commercial, and Rome, the political capital. In recent years, this relationship has undergone some tensions as northern citizens often complain about the lack of accountability with which resources produced in Lombardy and its neighbouring regions are used by national politicians. The way in which the EXPO victory was achieved displayed a common spirit by northern and national figures in both business and politics and this is a good sign for the future.
However, despite the overall joy, the good news also caused some political argument. This was triggered off by the uncertainty over the future of Milan’s airport Malpensa which is closely linked to the crisis of flagship airline Alitalia. Now that the EXPO is going to Milan, some politicians from the Lega Nord have said that it would be irresponsible to let Malpensa be downgraded.
More political controversy was inevitable after some journalists provocatively asked opposition leader Silvio Berlusconi whether Milan’s success was exclusively due to the efforts of outgoing prime minister Romano Prodi. Unsurprisingly, Berlusconi rejected any such notion emphasizing that it was not Prodi’s merit. The episode caused some more squabble from all sides of the political spectrum but at the end of the day everyone realizes that Milan won due to a common effort and that the event should be not be spoiled by party-politics.