Expo bosses tell government they have met conditions

Organisers of the planned but troubled national exhibition, Expo.02 - headed by Radical Party president, Franz Steinegger (pictured) - believe they have now met the government's conditions to ensure the project gets the go-ahead.

This content was published on January 21, 2000 - 20:55

Organisers of the planned but troubled national exhibition, Expo.02 - headed by Radical Party president, Franz Steinegger (pictured) - believe they have now met the government's conditions to ensure the project gets the go-ahead.

The board of Expo.02 gave details at a news conference in Berne of a new streamlined budget, saying it had met the government's conditions to raise a further SFr350 million in private sponsorship and had cut back spending on the project.

A provisional budget of SFr1.8 billion has been slimmed down to SFr1.4 billion, partly at the demand of the federal government. The additional SFr350 million pledged by private industry means only another SFr30 million has to be found to meet government conditions for further financing.

The Expo management is still seeking a government deficit guarantee of up to SFr320 million but is pressing the government to give the final go-ahead for the project next month. This would allow construction to start in November and end just in time for the opening in May 2002.

Expo.02 will contain at least 40 exhibitions or pavilions - a cutback of some 20, said the artistic director, Martin Heller. Among the budget cuts are a Sushi bar and a floating theatre. But there are still hopes that additional sponsorship may permit more than the 40 planned exhibits.

Nelly Wenger, the technical director of the Expo says: "This cost-cutting operation has been very interesting because braking a locomotive or a boat heading for a fixed object, and throwing the helm around 180 degrees is a very delicate operation."

Organisers hope to attract 11 million visitors from in and outside Switzerland to the five-month exhibition. Its duration has been curtailed by three weeks.

Expo will show diverse aspects of Swiss political, commercial and artistic life, with the displays built on and around the three north-western lakes of Neuchatel, Biel and Murten.

Switzerland holds a national exhibition every 20 or 30 years. They are nearly always preceded by long drawn-out regional and local squabbles. This was the case in the Expo held in 1964 in Lausanne.

But Expo.02 has probably beaten all records in terms of resignations, dismissals and reshuffles of leading personalities. Originally planned as Expo.01, it was put off for a year, and further government funds were made conditional on a sweeping cost-cutting exercise, accompanied by a comprehensive quest for new sponsors.

By Peter Haller

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