I was a delegate accredited to the Bureau International of Expositions (BIE) when was the vote to decide on the host country for the Universal Expo 2015. My instructions were to support Italy. It is then with a natural enthusiasm that I flew to Milan to visit the Expo and finally witnessed how the project I supported many years ago had been implemented. My curiosity was to visit the pavilions from more than 140 participants and to see how everyone had interpreted the theme: “Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life”. From the rumours I had heard, organisers were satisfied with the first weeks of the Expo. The objectives in terms of number of participating countries and organisations and pre-sales tickets were met. And even if the news reported protests of the Italian population on the day of the inauguration, my Milanese friends seem satisfied with the impact of the Expo on the city and its population.
On the third week of May, I was in Milan for my first visit to the Expo. After only a few hours visiting I had the general impression that Expo Milan is a good International Expo but not a Universal one. All the participants have good quality pavilions and nice content, but with the exception of a few excellent ones, I didn’t feel enthusiasm, challenge or the feeling of witnessing an extraordinary global event. As in previous Expos, I was prepared to spend a few hours in queues under the sun of Italy. But surprisingly, by contrast with other Expos, there were almost no line-ups to enter the pavilions. This is either due to a better conception of the entrances, queue management systems, flow of visitors or because visitors are fewer than expected. We will know in few months how this will evolve but at least for now, this common criticism is not mentioned in this Expo.
Another contradictory feeling I had was with the structure of the ‘Decumano’ (Central covered aisle of the Expo). It is a good intention to protect visitors from the sun, rain and wind. This aisle (1,5 km long) has also the advantage to guide the visitors; most of the main pavilions are located along its way. The disadvantage is that some pavilions have their facade obstructed by metallic pillars that hold the structure. For others there is no possibility to admire the perspectives. Most visitors remain under the shade in this central path and do not take the chance to visit other pavilions, clusters, restaurants or bars located in the second line or further in the background. So, when visiting the Expo remember to leave the shade and discover calm places where to have a drink or rest a bit far from the crowd.
One last word: Restaurants are delicious but expensive inside the site. For half the price of a meal in the Expo site you can enjoy a delicious Italian gastronomy diner in downtown Milan.