The official countdown has begun! With curtains due to rise on the most highly anticipated show in town at 10:00 on May 1st you may be asking yourself, what exactly is Expo? Hello Milano brings you the insider guide.
For many countries Expo2015 will be an opportunity to exhibit and celebrate contemporary and traditional culinary inventiveness; others are more focused on the politics of figuring out how we will be able to feed a global population of 9 billion by 2050 without destroying the environment.
Representatives of 145 countries are expected, with 98 of these creating their own super artistic pop-up pavilions, such as the British beehive or the Thai lotus flowers; and the rest participating in thematic exhibitions known as Clusters. Some of the largest NGOs will be present at the Cascina Triuliza, a massive onsite renovated farming complex, including Oxfam, Save the Children and the World Wildlife Fund. The UN and the EU will have pavilions dedicated to explaining their role in helping feed the planet, and a third International Organization, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) which represents 17 islands and archipelagos will also be presenting, along with corporates ranging from American manufacturers of canned drinks to Chinese technological giants.
The gates will open every day from 10:00 to 23:00 from May 1st to October 31st.
Many pavilions will have restaurant and café spaces where visitors can sample local specialties prepared by top chefs jetted in specially for the event. It would be a mistake to have a big breakfast before heading down there. There will be interactive displays and demonstrations focused on sources of local pride; this could be apples (Poland), mineral water (Hungary) or forests and unpolluted air (Austria). Some countries are providing orchards (Spain), crops for harvest (USA), or simply love for people and nature (S*LOVE*nia). This will be the first Universal Expostion to have a pavilion entirely dedicated to the history, and culture of wine. Many countries will also be hosting cultural events. This is the first time China has been involved in an International exhibition, and is planning detailed presentations and talks along with theatre and shows from across its vast and varied territory. Switzerland is highlighting the interdependence of global food production by filling its pavilion with four gigantic container-towers with essential produce: water, salt, coffee and apples. Visitors can take a lift to the top of the tower where they can help themselves, but as the food begins to run out the platforms on which the towers rest will be lowered, changing the structure of the pavilion itself over time. The idea is to demonstrate how personal responsibility and consumer behaviour will determine how much food remains for those who come after us, and for how long.
There will also be nine Cluster pavilions grouping together produce such as Fruit and Vegetables, Rice, Spice and Chocolate and Cocoa. These will provide a space for high-level networking between members of the food-chain for each product; producer-country farmers, packers, processors and distributors; and for telling their multi-faceted stories to the public. The Clusters are a way of celebrating different countries’ food heritage, their vastly differing cultures and traditions, and unique stories around the origins of their goods. There will be bars for tastings, seats for relaxing and reading, a play area for children, and a theatre which is expected to host a daily round of talk shows – for example in the Cocoa and Chocolate Cluster, there will be pastry chefs, chocolatiers, food bloggers and ice-cream specialists preparing and talking about yummy ways to cook and eat chocolate; book launches, traditional musical performances and drama. This promises to be armchair travelling par-excellence.
The Expo also offers a great opportunity for researchers and practitioners to discuss nutrition, food science and sustainability, so there will be a week dedicated to the best practices project called Feeding Knowledge. This is a scientific network created for the event but designed to be useful long afterwards, which brings together more than 2500 experts including scientists, researchers, technicians around five main themes: the sustainable management of natural resources; improvement in the quantity and quality of agricultural production; socio-economic dynamics and global markets; sustainable development of small rural communities in marginal areas; and food consumption habits: diet, environment, society, economy and health. They have developed a database of more than 800 articles and scientific papers, and 3400 organizations and institutions have registered online. Awards are expected for the very best contributions to the debate.
Locals will confirm that the city has been turning itself upside-down in preparation for the event; hundreds of volunteers will be helping during the six-month event, and there are some spectacular initiatives that will permanently improve the city. Milan city council has been working overtime to repair pavements, provide new cycle paths, and build a whole new leg of the metro. They are halfway through installing 100 interactive ‘totems’ for anyone discovering the city on foot, providing information on historic and cultural sites, notable architecture and also public transport, bike-sharing, hospitals, cinemas and sports centres at the touch of a screen.
Locals are getting involved too. The people behind The Dogfather (www.dogfather.it) will be providing dog-sitting services for Expo visitors with four-legged friends who are unable to enter the grounds, along with their specialized online guide of dog-friendly places to ‘eat, drink, shop, see, sleep at’ and more via their site and mobile app.
And if you have been inspired by all this to pick up a pan yourself, there’s a part of the Expo website dedicated to easy and delicious recipes from specialists around the world http://worldrecipes.expo2015.org/en/
P.S. Universal Expositions are huge international events that over a six month period provide a cultural, educational and commercial experience to visitors and participating countries. They offer a place where people from around the world can meet and talk, reinforcing cooperation between the different populations of the world. The Expos are managed by the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the international governing body established in Paris in 1928 by the Convention Relating to International Exhibitions.
Milan was chosen for the first time in 1906 and the title was “The Great Expo of Work”. The fair opened on 28 April 1906, ran until 31 October and marked the opening of the Simplon Tunnel, from Italy to Switzerland. It received 4.012.776 visits and covered 250 acres. The “International Commission on Occupational Health” was founded at the Milan Expo 1906 and is still active.
The Milan aquarium was built for the occasion, and is still standing.