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Expo 2005 is officially inaugurated

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko inside the Japan Pavilion during a tour of the Expo Keystone

The 2005 World Expo in Japan has opened in the presence of Emperor Akihito at a ceremony attended by representatives of 120 countries.

This content was published on March 24, 2005 - 09:36

Switzerland has spent SFr15 million ($12.7 million) on its participation at the global event, which opened to the public on Friday.

More than 15 million people are expected to visit the 173-hectare Expo site just outside the city of Nagoya.

Security was tight at the opening ceremony and will remain so throughout the six-month run of the first global exhibition of the 21st century.

Additional security measures have been put in place at some of the attractions, including the United States pavilion – one of the largest at the Expo.

Heads of state and prime ministers from more than 60 of the participating countries are due to have visited Japan by the time the Expo closes on September 25.

Swiss President Samuel Schmid is scheduled to lead a delegation to Japan next month and will attend celebrations to mark Swiss Day at the Expo on April 15.

He will also travel to Tokyo for talks with senior Japanese government officials.

The Japanese prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, has made it clear he intends to use such occasions to bolster international support for Japan’s bid to win a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

Swiss pavilion

The Swiss government expects as many as 1.5 million visitors to the Expo to pass through the doors of the country’s pavilion, built in the shape of an alpine mountain range.

Designers in charge of constructing the Swiss exhibition space have steered clear of national stereotypes and clichés usually associated with Switzerland.

"The key message that we want to get across to visitors is that there is more to Switzerland than just nature," said Manuel Salchli, director of the Swiss pavilion.

"Of course we still want to sell the country as a tourism destination, but we also want to inform people that we are a nation of adventurers and scientists," he told swissinfo.

Part of the exhibition is devoted to displays focusing on scientific research carried out at the Federal Institutes of Technology in Zurich and Lausanne.

Prominent Swiss, including the country’s only astronaut, Claude Nicollier, are also given space inside the pavilion.

"We realise that you’ll never be able to change an image of a country simply by participating in a World Expo, but you can at least work towards this goal," said Salchli.

Promising start

Initial fears that Switzerland’s presentation at the Expo could confuse or alienate Japanese visitors have so far proven unfounded.

An unofficial guide to the exhibition – published ahead of Friday’s opening - awarded Switzerland four out of a possible five stars. Only the US and South Korean pavilions received maximum points.

"This accolade suggests that we are taking the right approach," said Philippe Neeser, Deputy Commissioner-General to the Swiss pavilion.

"So I’m confident that six months from now Switzerland’s contribution to the Expo will be judged to have been a success."

Before that, Switzerland and all other countries present in Japan will have to lure visitors away from what is anticipated to be the star attraction at the Expo: the fully-intact head of a mammoth recently uncovered in the Siberian permafrost.

Scientists believe the frozen remains could yield clues to the mystery of why the animal became extinct 10,000 years ago.

swissinfo, Ramsey Zarifeh in Aichi, Japan

Key facts

The 2005 World Expo runs for six months from March 25 to September 25.
Switzerland’s pavilion at the global exhibition is called "The Mountain" and was built at a cost of SFr15 million ($12.7 million).
It will operate at a maximum capacity of 800 visitors per hour.
Swiss President Samuel Schmid is expected to visit the Expo site during an official visit to Japan in April.

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