Milan Expo defies naysayers, proves unexpected success

Thu Oct 29, 2015 9:35am EDT
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By Crispian Balmer

ROME (Reuters) - Milan Expo closes its doors on Saturday after a highly successful run that defied those who predicted it would flop and debunking the stereotype view that Italians cannot queue.

More than 20 million people have visited the world fair since it opened on May 1, when builders were still struggling to complete the 110 hectare (272-acre) site on the outskirts of Milan and naysayers had already dismissed it as a costly farce.

Initial scepticism gave way to growing curiosity and in recent weeks the Expo has been deluged daily by tens of thousands of visitors, some of whom queued for up to seven hours to enter the most popular national pavilions.

"Expo has been a huge success," Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi said this week.

"It has been a crucial showcase for foreign investment," said Economy Minister Pier Carlo Padoan. "It shows we can be a team," said President Sergio Mattarella.

A promenade of undulating tents, bizarre buildings and innovative architecture, Expo 2015 was conceived as a celebration of food, agriculture and healthy eating, with 53 countries using the event to promote their international image.

The build up was marred by corruption scandals, which have enveloped public administration in Italy as inevitably as the winter fog cloaks Milan, but they failed to dampen interest.

It would have been possible to fly to Berlin and back in the time that it took visitors to shuffle into the German exhibit, while the line for other popular pavilions, such as Japan, Italy and the United Arab Emirates, reached biblical proportions.   Continued...

Visitors are seen at the Expo 2015 global fair in Milan, Italy, October 29, 2015.  REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo