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Expo.02 - let's do it again

The survey reveals that many Swiss would consider staging another Expo

(Keystone)

Switzerland's national exhibition, Expo.02, may not have been a financial success - but it was a popular one.

A new survey released on Wednesday reveals that a majority of Swiss would like to stage another national exhibition in the future.

Of the 2002 people surveyed, 79 per cent said they thought it would be a good idea to hold another Expo 25 to 30 years from now.

Expo.02, which ended on Sunday, sold over ten million tickets during its five-month run; one in two people from French- and German-speaking Switzerland came to Expo.02, but only one in five from the Italian-speaking region.

Swiss identity

The survey released by exhibition organisers also reveals that nine out of ten visitors to Expo.02 said they enjoyed themselves.

"Switzerland loved the Expo," said exhibition director Nelly Wenger at a press conference on Wednesday to release the results of the survey.

"The exhibition succeeded in reawakening people's desire for Swiss identity," said Wenger. "We have laid the foundations for a new form of patriotism."

Financial woes

But the popular success of Expo.02 does not extend to the state of its finances.

Government funding for the project has totalled over SFr900 million, and organisers are still hoping for an additional credit of SFr90 million from parliament.

Expo.02's marketing director, Rainer Müller, said the main problem had been insufficient corporate sponsorship, as well as the length of time people spent visiting the exhibition.

"Our research prior to Expo.02 indicated that people would spend part of their holidays at the exhibition," Müller explained.

"Instead, they paid shorter but more intense visits, which had a consequent effect on the income of the Expo.02 accommodation and transport facilities."

But exhibition organisers say the local economies around the host sites along the lakes of Biel, Neuchâtel, and Murten did benefit from the exhibition.

An estimated 9,900 jobs were created in the region during Expo.02 and an extra SFr970 million flowed into the area.

Clean-up operation

Many of those extra jobs will remain for some time to come, as the long and complicated clean-up operation begins.

It will take many months, possibly even years, to dismantle the giant structures which graced Expo.02's four sites.

An area of 400,000 square metres has to be cleared, while 37 different exhibits, 25 temporary restaurants, and countless toilets, shelters, kiosks and offices all have to be dismantled.

Questions are already being asked about what exactly should be done with the remains of Expo.02.

Many fans of the exhibition would like to preserve some of the more novel pieces, such as the Monolith - a giant metal cube which floated on Lake Murten for the duration of the exhibition.

There are also moves to preserve Yverdon's artificial cloud, as well as the "Palace of Equilibrium" which proved to be a popular attraction in Neuchâtel.

Leftovers, anyone?

But none of these structures was designed for permanent use, and it seems likely that large sections of Expo.02 will simply be dismantled, and possibly sold, piece by piece.

A German website is already offering pieces of Expo.02 for sale over the Internet, including giant trolleys used at the "Strangers in Paradise" exhibition which was sponsored by Swiss supermarket chain, Migros.

The enormous steel and concrete structure of "Strangers in Paradise" is also for sale at the price of SFr50,000.

For real Expo.02 enthusiasts, an auction of more exhibition material will be held in Biel in mid-November.

swissinfo

Key facts

Expo.02 sold over ten million tickets during its five-month run.
One in every two French- and German-speaking Swiss visited Expo.02.
Half a million foreign holidaymakers attended the exhibition - around half the figure originally expected.

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