I have a question, have you ever heard of the world’s fair or the world expo?
There was a time
When the world came together
To celebrate humanity
Art and technology
And the future
The dirty little secret?
There still is.
(From Where’s The Fair? Trailer- Documentary directed by Jeffrey Ford)
Why do I ask? Because I worked there! It was an amazing summer internship as one of 40 Student Ambassador’s at the USA Pavilion for the 2012 World Expo in Yeosu, South Korea. It’s quite a neat story that I’ll tell you more about in an upcoming blog post.
I haven’t watched Where’s the Fair? yet, and don’t know if I can agree that it’s a dirtly little secret, but I definitely feel like the general American populace has been left in out of the loop. The World’s Fair exists! It just changed names and is now referred to as the World Expo. I was surprised and excited when I learned these events have continued to operate every 2-3 years at 3-6 months at a time.
So what happened? Why aren’t they publicized like other world events like the Olympics? Why doesn’t the US host them anymore? Well, I’ll share a little insight that I’ve gained through working at the USA Pavilion.
Firstly, legislation prohibits the use of US taxpayer money for US participation in World Expos. All other nations participate through either a combination of government funds and corporate sponsorship, or rely solely on government funding. For over a decade, USA Pavilions have relied on corporate funding.
Secondly, each expo’s USA Pavilion is a non-profit entity created for that specific year’s expo, and then the non-profit dismantles. US participation in World Expos is the product of a public partnership with the newly founded non-profit funded by corporate sponsors.
The next World Expo is taking place in Milan, Italy in 2015; after that we’ve got Expo Astana 2017 and Expo Dubai 2020. So, for any students who speak Italian, Russian, Kazahk, or Arabic, OR students who want to be a part of an international event, check to see if you can work at one of the upcoming expos or for the USA Pavilion! Milan’s theme is Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life—food! The US announced its participation in Expo Milan in March, 2014. The reason it is announced so late, unlike other countries who confirm their participation in future expos before the current one is completed, is because of the funding issue. Because funding isn’t guaranteed, neither is our participation. Instead of concentrating efforts on planning and refining the design, operations, and experience that the Pavilion, valuable time is lost in order to raise the money necessary to run the pavilion.
Finally, the US is no longer a member of the Bureau of International Expositions (BIE), therefore it does not get a vote in determining which country will host a future expo. Until the US pays dues and is reinstated as an active member it is unlikely that another World Expo will be held here.
Overall expos are great opportunities to show off new developments in technology, knowledge sharing, and celebration of culture. I hope that Americans become more aware of this event, begin to take part in it, and maybe even push for the US to rejoin the BIE so we can host once again.
Emilie, Peer Advisor