Milan Expo 2015, a world’s fair sanctioned by the Bureau of International Exhibitions, is underway. The six-month event opened May 1, will close Oct 31, and in its first month attracted 3 million visits.
145 countries are participating with 53 self-built pavilions ranging in size up to 50,000 square feet. Visitors not only get to see all these pavilions and their exhibits, but also to enjoy the myriad of events that take place throughout the expo.
Chief among these events are the National Days of each participating country. Any pavilion staff will tell you that their country’s National Day is their most worked on and carefully programmed event of the entire expo.
National Day activities include official ceremonies, parades and visits by high-ranking officials. Often the guest of honor is a head of state, and the coordination of those visits is a major undertaking that has to be planned down to the minutest detail.
The heads of state presiding over National Days at Milan 2015 in just the first four weeks after opening day represented Monaco (Prince Albert II), China (Vice Premier Wang Yang), Estonia (President Toomas Hendirk llves), Russia (President Vladimir Putin), Italy (President Sergio Mattarella), Swiss Confederation (President Simonetta Sommaruga), Spain (President Mariano Rajoy Brey), Republic of Ecuador (President Rafael Correa), Columbia (President Juan Manuel Santos), and Mexico (President Enrique Pena Nieto).
Many more will come through before closing day. And these visits are not just ceremonial. Real diplomacy takes place and international alliances can be strengthened. Here is an account of China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang’s recent visit to Milan in celebration of China’s National Day: http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2015-06/08/c_134308326.htm
National Day programs are “all hands on deck” for any pavilion staff and are both exhilarating and exhausting. From my own experience (decades of organizing US Pavilions) I can tell you that there is a tremendous buildup of anticipation before, and a collective sigh of fulfillment and relief after a National Day.
The illustrations show an example from my not-so-distant past – some excerpts of the logistics plan for the US Pavilion’s National Day at Seville Expo 92 (see illustrations). The guest of honor was Marilyn Quayle, wife of then Vice President Dan Quayle, and the Masters of Ceremony for our National Day cultural show at the Palenque (the expo amphitheater) were actors Barbara Eden and Tony Randall.
The producer for our National Day show at Seville ’92 was Dan Markley who had just produced the Broadway hit “Stomp,” and is currently the Executive Director and Producer of the New York Musical Theater Festival. Dan and I spent a lot of time in close quarters planning the National Day ceremony and I can attest to the many hours of work in putting such a show together.
You can follow the National Day programs at Milan Expo 2015 here: http://magazine.expo2015.org/en/national-days – there are more than 100 set to take place through Oct 31.
One of the strengths of a world’s fair is its power to attract high-level officials from throughout the world. And the international diplomacy that can take place at such a “roll up your shirt sleeves” venue can be remarkable.
Critics continue to question the value of these events in the modern age, but to those of us with hands-on experience there is little doubt that world expositions provide unparalleled opportunity to forge important bonds between the host country and the participating countries – and from participating country to participating country.
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