Ambassador Doug Hickey, Commissioner General, USA Pavilion • interview by James Ogul
Just past the halfway mark of its six-month run, Expo Milano 2015 has reported some 8.4 million visits. The USA Pavilion at this world’s fair has been ranked as one of the most-attended, reporting more than 2 million visits – an average of more than 25,000 a day.
Ambassador Douglas Hickey, Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion, graciously took the time to be interviewed. Based on my own years of experience helping organize the US presence at world expos, Ambassador Hickey’s vivid enthusiasm is characteristic. The distinguished men and women who have served as US Commissioners General become true believers in expos.
Douglas T. Hickey was most recently president and CEO of San Francisco-based BinWise, and has more than 20 years’ experience holding senior level positions in the telecom, Internet and technology space. He was appointed Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion at Expo Milano 2015 by the US Department of State in December 2014.
Let’s hope that this splendid US effort at Milanwill be matched at upcoming world’s fairs at
Astana (Kazakhstan) 2017 and Dubai 2020.
What’s your general impression of this Expo as a whole?
I have been extremely impressed. This has been a huge undertaking for our Italian hosts and they should be proud of what they have accomplished. I think everyone who has the opportunity to visit can attest to the beauty and substance of this world’s fair. It’s also a lot of fun! Expo Milano is clearly the place to be in 2015.
The energy, creativity and substance of this Expo have been truly remarkable. The theme – Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life – is a serious theme and a global challenge. Many of the participating pavilions have very thoughtfully addressed the theme.
Please give us an idea of your level of involvement as Commissioner General of the USA Pavilion.
I moved with my family to Italy in December 2014, before the Expo opened, and have been here full-time ever since. We wanted to support the development and implementation of the USA Pavilion as fully as possible and felt we could do that best by being on the ground here in Milan. It was a proud day when our Pavilion opened on May 1 and I have been part of the team here, working daily, to ensure a meaningful American presence at this world’s fair.
I am very proud of the team we have here in Milan, and of American leadership and innovation on global food issues. The USA Pavilion very effectively reflects the latest advances in areas such as science, technology, climate change, nutrition and health.
Tell us more about the USA Pavilion.
Under the theme “American Food 2.0: United to Feed the Planet,” we reflect on America’s ability to innovate in the food sector globally, and talk about individual as well as institutional responsibility in addressing hunger in our world. We all have a part to play in how we feed the more than 9 billion people that will inhabit the Earth by 2050.
As First Lady Michelle Obama observed when she visited, when you walk around the USA Pavilion, you think the solutions are right in our grasp. It represents how the United States is engaging in a global dialog about how we will feed the planet in the future in a way that is sustainable, wholesome and just.
Some have suggested the US ought to rejoin the Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE). What is your opinion?
As a Commissioner General, I have participated in the Commissioners Meetings. I have a close relationship with the Americas representative on the Steering Committee; we work closely to raise opportunities and concerns to the BIE as appropriate.
Membership in the BIE is not a prerequisite to US participation in a world expo held in another country; Milan marks the fourth time we’ve been part of a world’s fair in the past decade. And even though I don’t have a voting role in the College of Commissioners, I am able to participate, offer my opinion, and collaborate with my fellow commissioners on issues of common interest.
Have you been able to meet other Commissioner Generals and visit their pavilions?
I meet other Commissioner Generals all the time and have been hosted by many at their pavilions, just as I host them at the USA Pavilion. Expo Milano is a wonderful global collaboration and conversation. Meeting and working with my fellow Commissioner Generals in this context has been a huge pleasure and privilege.
What are your views on the significance of world’s fairs, and Milan 2015 in particular?
World’s fairs are wonderful opportunities for countriesto come together to share experience and innovation, and provide an international platform to highlight global priorities. The United States has a proud history of participating in world’s fairs and when Secretary Kerry asked if I would serve as Commissioner General for the USA Pavilion, I enthusiastically agreed. I care deeply about the focus of this Expo. Simply put, the Expo is one of the most effective public diplomacy forums available to us. We have the opportunity to touch millions of people from all around the globe. • • •
Jim Ogul is presently a consultant with IMG on Dubai Expo 2020, and a contributor to InPark Magazine, which has published his online book, “Tales from the Expo.” After retiring from the State Department in 2011, he served as a contract Senior Project Officer for the USA Pavilion at Yeosu Expo 2012. As an employee of the US State Department, and before that the Commerce Department, he was involved in organizing and directing US participation at world’s fairs including Aichi 2005, Lisbon 1998, Taejon 1993, Seville 1992, Vancouver ’86, Tsukuba ’85, New Orleans ’84 and Knoxville ’82.
42,000 square feet
Biber Architects – building design
Thinc Design – exhibits design
Open-plan layout designed to accommodate high foot traffic without queues
Four-story, vertical garden, the length of a football field, supplies food for its restaurant operations
Operated by Friends of the US Pavilion Milano 2015, which is made up of the James Beard Foundation, the International Culinary Center and the American Chamber of Commerce in Italy
64 Sponsors and nine Official Suppliers
120 Student Ambassadors representing 95 universities
Hours of operation: 12 hours a day, 7 days a week
Three components: The Pavilion, Food Truck Nation and the James Beard American Restaurant (offsite, in the city of Milan)[/tab]
[tab title=”Snapshot of Expo Milano 2015″]May 1 – October 31, 2015
Theme: Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life
140 Participating Countries
Six Participating Corporations
Attendance Projection: 20 million
Exhibit Space: 1.1 million square meters
Nine Global Partners
Commissioner General: Giuseppe Sala[/tab]
[tab title=”Dubai 2020: A Few Facts”]October 20, 2020 – April 10, 2021
Projected Attendance: 25 million
Theme: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future
Site: 438 Hectares with 200-hectare gated Expo area[/tab]