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If Toronto builds Expo, will they come?
Toronto debates whether to bid on 2015 world's fair Some see event as irrelevant in age

Apr. 18, 2006. 05:30 AM
JOSEPH HALL
Toronto Star


Dragon-shaped balloons float above the opening ceremonies of Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, above. The fair, expected to draw 15 million visitors, ended up attracting almost 22 million. Toronto could reverse that trend if it decides to bid for Expo 2015. Possible competitors include Moscow, Rio de Janeiro and Izmir, Turkey.

Is Toronto about to fish in a bygone era for the future of its waterfront?

With the city set to decide late next month whether to back a bid for the Expo 2015 world's fair, Toronto could soon be searching, yet again, for an international extravaganza to kick-start its port lands development.

But some experts say these international exhibitions, which date back to the middle of the 19th century, are anachronisms in this age of mass tourism and the Internet.

"Certainly there are lots of people who regard these events as anachronistic, as cultural dinosaurs ... as things that have outlived their usefulness," says Montana State University historian Robert Rydell, who has made a study of the 155-year-old world's fair movement.

The Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions will make a decision on the 2015 fair location in February 2008. To date, other cities expressing interest include Moscow, Rio de Janeiro and Izmir, Turkey. Toronto's bid would require some $2 billion backing from Ottawa, Queen's Park and the city.

Over the past 16 years, Toronto has unsuccessfully bid on two Summer Olympics — the 1996 and 2008 Games — and the Expo 2000 fair, as well as some more minor cultural and sporting events. The 2000 fair, which was awarded to the German city of Hanover, was widely considered an attendance and entertainment failure.

Expo expert Bruno Giberti has called the global exhibition passé in an age of instant information access and global travel.

"You have to ask yourself, who really needs a world's fair when you can look up the world on the Internet?" Giberti, an architectural historian at the California Polytechnic State University, told the Toronto Star in 2004.

"I do still see these fairs as passé," he said recently, "unless Toronto has somehow reimagined the event in some unanticipated way."

Giberti says international spectacles of all kinds have lost their appeal to many, especially in the United States, which would be relied on to provide millions of visitors to a Toronto fair.

"I think the declining interest, in the U.S. at least, in the Olympics is evidence of the way in which these kinds of international events have become obviated," he says.

The main thrust of Expos past has been to bring international technologies and cultures to people who, in all likelihood, would have had no other way of seeing them, Giberti says.

Rydell agrees that a daunting array of entertainment and information options has emerged to challenge the world's fair raison d'être.

On the other hand, he says, there's still a lot of life left in the concept.

One proof of life, he says, rests in the simple fact that some recent Expos have been enormously popular.

A small world's fair in Aichi, Japan last year, for example, was expected to draw 15 million visitors and ended up attracting almost 22 million.

"People were lined up for eight to 10 hours trying to get into the Expo grounds," says Rydell, who visited the fair. "And this in a high-wired, high-tech society if ever there was one."

He points out that the 1992 Expo in Seville, Spain drew 42 million people, while attendance projections for Expo 2010 in Shanghai are around the 75 million mark.

Expos, he says, have prospered almost everywhere but North America, where, after Montreal's iconic Expo '67, they have often been forgettable cultural and financial failures.

Lacklustre events in San Antonio, Spokane, Knoxville and New Orleans between 1968 and 1984 largely erased the world's fair allure established here by Montreal, which is often regarded as the century's best Expo.

Even Vancouver's popular Expo '86 — which drew more than 22 million visitors — failed to reignite interest on this continent, which has not held one in the ensuing two decades.

In other regions of the world, however, they've thrived, Rydell says.

A large part of this overseas success can be attributed to an innate desire to be part of the spectacle that events like a world's fair can provide.

"You can ask why anyone would (line up) in the 21st century when you can easily point and click," he says.

"But why do people go to baseball games? Why do people go to football games when they can turn on their television sets?"

The sights, smells and organized chaos of a fair still hold an allure for people, he says.

"There's still a kind of being-there-ness (attraction) of all of this that in some ways suggests we aren't as far removed from the 20th and even 19th century as we like to think we are," Rydell says.

As well, he says, an important goal of world's fairs since the 1880s has been the creation of new urban infrastructure — cultural, economic and physical — within the host cities.

That, he says, is still a legitimate and achievable purpose.

"Since the 1880s at least, world's fairs have been about building urban infrastructure, they've been about building museums," he says.

"And that's been pretty well-maintained through the 20th century as well."

Montreal's splendid subway system, a number of its major hotels and its international reputation can be traced back to the centennial year Expo.

Vancouver's Expo helped that city reclaim large tracts of its waterfront and left it with its popular Science World dome.

But Giberti says the goal of urban renewal — especially on derelict lands — should more legitimately be tied to ongoing city planning, rather than a one-shot Expo extravaganza.

"If urban renewal is the ambition, I can hardly believe that it's not more effective just to engage in that project than it is to use a world's fair as a lever."

Rydell also argues that fairs have often been showcases for new and innovative architecture, with Expo pavilions having represented some of the most striking design concepts of the 20th century.

But actual fair pavilions should not be counted on as a potential legacy, Rydell cautions.

Overwhelmingly meant to be temporary installations, the pavilions are almost invariably dismantled soon after the exhibition runs are completed, he says.

"The structures are intended to be ephemeral because of (upkeep) costs," he says.

In Montreal, for example, only the former French pavilion, now a casino, and the shell of the American pavilion, Buckminster Fuller's famed geodesic dome, remain on the actual Expo site.

Giberti, however, says the use of Expos to promote innovative architecture has been overtaken by a new push to build permanent, individual masterpieces into the fabric of urban centres.

This concept, first realized with architect Frank Gehry's Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain, has been copied in cities around the world.

Toronto is currently undergoing an architectural renascence of its own, with major renovations of the Royal Ontario Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario (which Gehry designed) and other major cultural centres now under construction.

Giberti says the vast majority of Expos cost more than they bring in. But calculating the economic benefits cannot be limited solely to volume at the turnstile, Rydell says.

"Very few world's fairs over the years have been profitable in the sense that the people who have invested in them have made a significant return off the revenue intake," he says.

"But overwhelmingly, people who invest in these things make money from secondary (and) tertiary investments in transportation infrastructure, hotels, tourism and those types of things."

Surprisingly, Toronto has already benefited from long ago world's fair aspirations, says Keith Walden, a history professor at Peterborough's Trent University.

He says the city's old Industrial Exhibition, first held in 1879, had aspirations to become a world's fair and spawned a marked modernization of Toronto.

"It didn't hold a candle to the Parisian fairs, and certainly not to the 1893 Chicago fair," says Walden, whose book, Becoming Modern in Toronto, documents the changes brought here by the precursor to the Canadian National Exhibition.

"But Toronto had aspirations for greater things. As the 1893 Toronto program put it, `Not a world's fair, but nearly so.'"
 

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The problem with World's Fair's in modern times is that they have lost their true focus. In the days before they were so organized, they were about optimism and looking towards the future. While Montreal may be claimed to be the most successful, the New York World's Fairs were undeniably the most memorable - they have had some ofd the biggest impacts on their times. Now that they have become less a comercial venture, they have ironically become less relavant to the population. They are too structured and have too much of a political statement about them to really work well on this continent.

I fully support a World's Fair, although I am not sure running it under an official World's Fair title is teh best solution. I think the whole idea needs careful updating - more of a focus on commercial companies showing off real futuristinc technology - and dreams. I think the aspects of a world's showcase is still quite functional, but needs to be less a museum and more of an experience. Lastly, it needs to be looked at not from a temporary standpoint, but more permanently. Perhaps the length of one year might be a little too short.

Heck, if the Walt Disney COmpany can do a permanent version, imagine what a group that actually trys to make a good vision of the future could do.
 

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I wasn' familiar with this event until my hometwn Izmir bid on it. They say it's outdated but even if it is, 20 million visitors is still a huge number.
It's also said the event attracts more people in Europe, Sevilla Expo had 40 million visitors, while Aichi had 20. And also the fair has never been done in a Muslim country before, so that Izmir's bid is quite strong. But lately it's been done in Europe, Asia, in 2010 it'll be done in China. This time maybe it's America's turn.
I don't know anthing about the other cities' candidacy situation, but there is a really optimistic air in Izmir as if the city has already got the bid. All the future plans of the city are made upon the world fair. Now i'm afraid all the developments in the city will stop unless we get the bid.
 

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SSLL
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It's definitely not as popular as it used to be. I really couldn't tell you the last one that was held, or the next one upcoming. I hope whoever wins will update it for the 21st century.
 

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From: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/LAC.20060419.FAIR19/TPStory/National
_____________________________
Expo-attendance forecast too optimistic, study says
JAMES RUSK
The attendance forecast in a study backing a possible bid to play host to a world's fair in Toronto in 2015 is far too optimistic, according to a review prepared for the Toronto Economic Development Corp.

The feasibility study's approach, which was to extrapolate from the number of visits to Expo 67 in Montreal, using the contemporary population in Eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, is "simplistic," the review says.

The review, by California-based consulting firm Economics Research Associates in conjunction with world's fair expert Gordon Linden, says a reasonable forecast of a low, medium and high attendance would be 30 million, 40 million or 50 million visits, rather than the 72 million of the feasibility study.

The review also warns that "the world's fair industry faces widespread questioning as to enduring appeal and relevance in face of increasingly sophisticated competition from alternative location-based and electronic entertainment forms."

Councillor Brian Ashton, chair of the city's Toronto 2015 World Expo steering committee, said he welcomes the review.

"I think it is extraordinarily positive. It speaks volumes to the real due diligence that we are putting this project through. I think that I would have been suspicious if it had simply said: 'Sounds okay to us,' " Mr. Ashton said.

He said that, while he believes a Toronto World's Fair could attract as many as 50 million visitors, he thinks the planning should be based on a target of 40 million.

"I think you have to dream big, but I intend to dream smart," Mr. Ashton said.

The bid, which was presented to the first of three public consultation meetings yesterday, is in its final stages of preparation, he said. The PricewaterhouseCoopers consulting firm is preparing the economic analysis of the project, which will then be given to Ottawa and the province to gain their support, Mr. Ashton said.

The prebid process is being directed by the Toronto 2015 World Expo Corp., a subsidiary of the Toronto Economic Development Corp.

In 1990 and 2000 Toronto made unsuccessful proposals to play host to an expo. If council okays another bid at its May meeting, Mr. Ashton hopes that Ottawa, which would make the pitch on behalf of the city, will announce its intention to bid at a June 30 meeting of the 98-nation Bureau of International Expositions, which will make a decision on a 2015 site next February.
 

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The Mighty.
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I would TOTALLY go to expo.
I heard the Montreal one in 1967 was just spectactular (too bad I wasn't even thought of...my mom was 6 lol)
I think it would be an amazing expierience and a fun time at that!
 

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If we do get it, I hope we get a massive monument on the waterfront. Just like Paris got the Eiffel tower. It would amazing coupled with the skyline and the CN tower.
 

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As a resident of this fair city, I would also support it.

Huge portions of our derelict waterfront would benefit from this. There is so much potential with the waterfront, but very little has been done to revitalize the area.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Expo bid drives TTC to buy 96 streetcars
100 others to be refurbished
Service expansion in anticipation of winning bid for 2015 World's Fair

Susan Kirwin
National Post
20 April 2006

The Toronto Transit Commission yesterday agreed to buy 96 new, low-riding streetcars and refurbish dozens more of its existing stock, which will be coupled together on busy routes, as it prepares for a crush of possible visitors if the city succeeds in its bid for Expo 2015.

The commission agreed to buy 96 streetcars from Siemens Transportation Systems of Germany. Another 100 of the TTC's existing streetcars will be refurbished, including about 75 that will be coupled at a cost of $100,000 each, in a bid to help stop them from bunching up during rush hour.

Transit advocates are not happy with the refurbishing and coupling plan, preferring that all-new streetcars be bought.

"It seems like a foolish expenditure for a short period of time," said Steve Munro of the transit advocacy group the Rocket Riders.

King Street has been discussed as a possible site for the new two-car streetcars.

Mr. Munro said the coupled cars would not fit at either Spadina or Union Station: "It's a nice idea, but it doesn't physically fit."

Activists criticized the TTC for investing more money in its 30-year-old fleet, which will be extended by 10 years.

"This is a waste of time," said Rocket Rider Steve Fisher.

"The TTC is throwing money here and there; we need to buy them off the shelf."

But the TTC officials said it is the only option they have.

Robert Boutilier, the commission's deputy general manager, said the streetcars are needed to maintain service until the new cars come in.

TTC engineers need to design new cars that will be compatible with Toronto's rail system.

Tracks have been upgraded and will be good for another 25 years, Mr. Boutilier said.

"It's not just a case of taking a car from the factory and putting it on the rails," said Mr. Boutilier, citing derailments in other cities that have bought streetcars off the shelf.

"Suppliers gloss over these issues. That's why we are being very careful from an engineering perspective."

The project is expected to take a minimum of 10 years.

"The need to refurbish is inescapable," said Mitch Stambler, the TTC's manager of service planning. "No matter how much we want to buy new cars, we have to rebuild."

Mr. Stambler said Toronto's bid for the 2015 World Expo makes it necessary to ensure the city has streetcar capacity.

"We might have to move 20,000 people per hour in both directions," Mr. Stambler said. "If we have to move that kind of volume, we would have to have coupling."

The new streetcars will have a "low-floor" style and will be fully accessible. All streetcars must be fully accessible by 2024 as a part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

The transit commission is also being criticized for being slow on accessibility. The refurbished cars will not be accessible.

"They are still behind with the times and they are still being closed-minded," Mr. Fisher said.

"They should have been discussing this 10 years ago."
 

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I would be worried that they are thinking too narrow minded with lower attendance counts. That has been a factor in previous fairs - they have been local event,s instead of global events. That, for instance, is why no one even knows where the previous ones were held.

It is a very hard think to estimate - there is so much to influence it. The marketing, what will draw people - how much will that affect it? How long - particularly if there are things that people think is a once in a lifetime experience, and most importantly what other things will be around that year to draw away attendance.

The real issue is - if you plan only for a small amount of people, realistically you will never be able to draw more people in. Don't let fear bring the project to failure.
 

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I went to the fairs in Vancouver and Seville and enjoyed both. I spent three days at the fair in Seville and two in Vancouver. Would I go to a fair in Toronto, probably.
 

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I don't want billions spent on Expo just so they leave us with a wasteland of useless buildings. Expo is a great financial boast to get the ball rolling, but it shouldn't be the ultimate factor in planning waterfront redevelopment.

On a positive note, at least stupid ideas like an underwater subway are off the table now.
 

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Indie Bean
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I hope that we get this, and end up with a big fat ferris wheel next to the shipping channel.

Actually, seems like a big waste to me. This is a situation where I ask myself if I would want to go to one of these things, and the answer is no. So, if I wouldn't want to go to one, why would I want to host one?

But it does give politicians a reason to sit on their hands while the portlands lay idle. We have been in this loop since 1988 (failed 1996 Olympic bid). I don't remember the delay tactic that they used before the "we're going to host a big event that will restore our waterfront" tactic.

I agree that it is obsolete.
 
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