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Growing scepticism over national exhibition

Nelly Wenger, director of Expo.02: the organisers have been accused of failing to sell the exhibition properly

(Keystone Archive)

The organisers of Switzerland's planned national exhibition, Expo.02, are coming under renewed attack a day after a survey showed less than half the population still supports the project.

On Monday a leading public relations consultant joined in the criticism of the Expo management team, accusing them of doing "a very bad job" of promoting the exhibition, which is scheduled to open next year.

Klaus Stöhlker told swissinfo the organisers had failed to instil enthusiasm in the public for the exhibition, which has been hit by a number of financial and organisational problems.

"The new team handling communications is absolutely inexperienced and doing a very, very bad job," Stöhlker said. "We have quite weak management with Expo.02 and we have very bad communications... And I think with that team they can't win."

His comments to swissinfo came hard on the heels of a survey, broadcast on French-language television, which showed that a slim majority of Swiss are opposed to the project. According to the Konso Institute survey, 50.3 per cent of those polled were sceptical about Expo.02, with scepticism highest among French-speaking Swiss.

For the organisers there was some comfort to be drawn from the fact that more people than ever before expressed their intention to visit the exhibition. Expo's president, Franz Steinegger, said he was satisfied with the poll's finding that 45 per cent planned to attend.

But Stöhlker said that because the organisers were assured of government funding for Expo.02, they did not feel the need to convince the public about the merits of the project.

The survey found that 62.4 per cent of French-speaking Swiss and 53 per cent of Italian speakers were against the national exhibition, despite the fact that most of the exhibition events are due to be held in western and southern Switzerland.

Stöhlker explained that the Swiss French were more interested in international and local events than national events like Expo. He said that the weakness of the economy in western Switzerland could also explain why few companies there were giving financial backing to the project.

However, Stöhlker said he was sure the exhibition would go ahead, with or without public backing. "It will happen, because the government will finance it," he told swissinfo.

swissinfo

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