Plagued by charges of corruption and waste, Milano Expo 2015 opened with some 30,000 austerity-struck Italians marching in protest against their government for spending a reported 12.5 billion euros to host the event.
Besides the money spent on highways, metro and infrastructure improvements, the expo, which I visited several ago, isn’t worth a dime. And as a trend forecaster attending on the assumption it would provide cutting-edge insights and innovations, it was a waste of time.
The six-month event kicked off in May and is promoted as the first world’s fair focused on food; its theme is “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life.” The expo provides nothing of substance to support its claim. From McDonald’s to Coke to Russian vodka and Italian wines, there is nothing at the expo that can’t be found at tourist-trap restaurants or airport snack bars.
In exhibits by poorer countries, known neither for their food nor location on a map, simple slideshows promote claims of environmental awareness in bids to attract investors to log forests, dig mines and exploit natural resources. And that’s all the expo is: lofty promises of feeding the planet and nothing but movies, slides, lights, smoke and mirrors to create the illusion that more of the same is something new.
Among nations large and small, the expo is part tourism promotion and merchandise sales — jewelry, scarves, blankets, carved wood pieces, food, drink and assorted knickknacks — anything that can make a buck and/or cover costs.
While some nations’ pavilions had one- to two-hour waits, it was free sailing into the USA pavilion. Other than splotches of grass on a vertical garden, the pavilion — one part small-city bus station and one part large self-storage unit — was empty of class and void of style.
In interviews, staff complained about the poor design that kept them busy mopping the place as rains poured in and people slipped and fell on water-soaked floors.
Just take one look at the defaced American flag logo, with a computer-generated fork, plate and knife replacing the stars and labeling it “American Food 2.0.” The picture speaks a thousand words.
While, for example, nations such as France, Italy and Russia provide a welcoming dining experience and somewhat innovative pavilions, a trip to the starkly empty USA food counter offered a big welcome from Walgreens, Lay’s Potato Chips, and plenty of Pepsi and other low-quality snack foods.
If you indeed are what you eat, the American pavilion, by its symbols, food and functions, symbolizes a nation low on quality and a loss of pride. TJ