On 13 October, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton officially announced that the United States will participate in the next World Expo, in South Korea: Yeosu Expo 2012. The announcement, made during a state luncheon at the US Department of State in honor of Republic of Korea President Lee Myung-bak, formalized the USA pavilion planning and development process that has been underway for several months. (See original news story here.)
The USA Pavilion producer is USA Pavilion 2012, LLC, a nonprofit organization headquartered in Virginia led by Philippe Cousteau Jr, son of Philippe Cousteau Sr, and grandson of legendary explorer Jacques Yves Cousteau.
Featuring the themes of “Diversity, Wonder and Solutions,” the USA Pavilion will bring to life the colorful mosaic of American life, sharing the voices and hopes of the American people with friends and partners in Korea and throughout the global community.
USA Pavilion Chief Spokesperson is Philippe Cousteau Jr who is also President of EarthEcho International; pavilion CEO Andrew Snowhite is advisor to EarthEcho International and Cousteau’s business partner at Azure Worldwide LLC, a strategic environmental design and development firm. COO of the pavilion is Mark Germyn; Executive Producer is Robert L Ward and The Hettema Group is exhibit designer. Fundraising is administered by the US Department of State with support by Norm Elder on the pavilion team side.
In awarding the project to this team, the US government selected a group and entity with a lot of legs, and whose members have worked together before. Philippe Cousteau Jr’s organizations and his work have an existing international reputation, an instant connection to the theme and passion for the issues involved, an extensive media presence through relationships with CNN and Discovery Communications and relevant academic ties with the University of Virginia. Robert Ward, a creative executive who has been honored with the Buzz Price Award for Lifetime Achievement by the Themed Entertainment Association, brings to the table a showmanship background that includes 2 decades with Universal Parks & Resorts, including the co-founding of Universal Creative. Ward has collaborated with Philippe Cousteau Jr on various projects since 2006.
Having been COO of the USA Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010, Mark Germyn has on-the-ground experience both relevant and recent. His international background includes top management roles at Legoland California and Warner Bros parks in Germany and Australia, as well as operations roles with pavilions at AmeriFlora 92 and Vancouver Expo 86. Norm Elder is a leader in strategic marketing and brand development whose credits include raising corporate sponsors for major Disney parks and for the USA Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010. The Hettema Group is a top design and master planning firm in themed entertainment and has received both awards and accolades recently as creator of “Beyond All Boundaries,” a 4D multimedia educational experience for the National World War II Museum in New Orleans. Prior to founding his own company, Phil Hettema was SVP of attraction development for Universal Recreation.
Funding & design challenges
At the time of this writing (late October 2011) Robert Ward’s mood was optimistic but sober. Most international pavilions at the World Expo are funded by their governments but in the case of the USA, all the funds must be obtained from private sources. The $61 million budget for last year’s USA Pavilion at Shanghai Expo 2010 covered design, building, staffing, operations and, after closing day, tear down and removal. Travel costs were eased by having an official airline sponsor. Fundraising was challenging but outside support and encouragement from Hillary Rodham Clinton and the U.S. State Department helped achieve the goal.
The situation for the Yeosu expo is somewhat different. Korea is a major trade and political partner to the USA; however Yeosu itself, on the southernmost tip of the country several hours’ drive from Seoul, is remote and the interests for corporations to back the pavilion are less obvious than they were with China and Shanghai. Yeosu’s being a 3-month regional expo, all 100+ participants including the USA occupy tenant spaces within one International Pavilion rather than raise their own structures. But even the modest USA Pavilion target budgetof $10 million to $13 million is elusive. “We have minimum threshold funding at this point,” said Ward. “The clock is running and we are working diligently to finalize a concept that can roll within the funding we do have and deliver a memorable and inspiring story.”
The USA Pavilion is being developed within a 12,000 square foot space that will be mostly devoted to public areas but also include a VIP hospitality room. Exhibits will focus on US coastal areas, with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and stewardship. “The USA probably has one of the most diverse coastlines in the world, from the fishing communities of New England, to the surf of the West Coast, the unique Gulf Coast, Hawaiian islands and Alaska,” notes Ward.
The pavilion will be staffed by student ambassadors through a program with the University of Virginia. Corporate sponsors include Chevron; Citi; Boeing; Corning Incorporated; Hyundai Motors America; Kia Motors America; Lockheed Martin; and Samsung Electronics America, Inc.
This will be Ward’s first expo pavilion but the seasoned producer doesn’t see it as a notch in his belt – he exudes genuine passion about the topic and dialog. “The US is a world leader in marine science and Yeosu is a unique opportunity,” he points out. “We want our presence to be a platform to inspire visitors with visions of a shared future where protecting and restoring our oceans’ resources are realized through international collaboration and innovation. It’s not just about us – it’s about all of us. The takeaway for the visitor is not just to be amazed and touched by the exhibits themselves (as we trust they will be) but to feel empowered, and want to participate. We’ll build in ways for that to happen and for the conversation to continue beyond the Expo itself.”
Judith Rubin has been reporting on world expos since 1987.
Yeosu Expo 2012
— Theme: The Living Oceans and Coast
— Expected attendance: 8 million to 10 million, mostly from within Korea
— Venue: New Port area in Yeosu, Korea
— Dates: May 12 – August 12, 2012
— Site: Area: 1.74 million ㎡ (Includes exhibition area of 250,000 ㎡ and auxiliary facilities) The site overlooks Hallyeosudo Marine National Park and Odong Island, and is surrounded by 317 islets.
Judith Rubin ([email protected]) is a leading journalist, content marketing specialist and connector in the international attractions industry. She reports on design and technical design, production and project management, industry trends and company culture. From 2005-2020 she ran communications and publications for the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA). In 2013, she was honored with the TEA Service Award. She was development director of IMERSA and publicist for the Large Format Cinema Association, and has contributed to the publications of PLASA, IAAPA and the International Planetarium Society. Judith joined World’s Fair magazine in 1987, which introduced her to the attractions industry. She joined InPark in 2010. Judith earned a BFA from Pratt Institute. She has lived in Detroit, New York, Oakland, and now Saint Louis, where she is active in the local arts community.
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