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Swiss tout new image at Expo 2005

Visitors will be able to walk around inside the mountain (dynamic-switzerland.jp)

Switzerland is hoping to shake off its image as a country of cheese, chocolate and cuckoo clocks when it takes part in the 2005 World Expo.

On Wednesday, organisers unveiled details of what visitors to the exhibition site will see when visiting the Swiss pavilion.

Expo 2005 opens its doors next March and will run until September.

Around 125 countries have signed up to attend what is being billed as the first global cultural event of the 21st century.

The exterior of the Swiss pavilion will be built in the shape of a mountain. Inside, visitors will be invited to take in an interactive presentation about Switzerland.

Walk-through exhibition

The space will be divided into a series of walk-through exhibits designed to portray Switzerland as a modern and innovative country.

Jenö Staehelin, who has served as Swiss ambassador to Japan and to the United Nations in New York, will be the country’s special representative at the Expo.

"Switzerland has a very good image in Japan, but it is still thought of primarily as the home of Heidi,” Staehelin told swissinfo.

“But we are also a dynamic country, with more to offer than just mountains and nature.”

He added that the aim of the Swiss pavilion – which has a budget of SFr15 million ($11.8 million) – was to show that the country is open to the world and is a centre of innovation.

Mountain tour

A tour of the pavilion will begin with an exhibition entitled “Swiss Myths”, which organisers hope will serve as an introduction to the country’s legends and famous names – including Heidi.

Items to be put on display include a Hans Erni painting commissioned for Switzerland’s National Exhibition in 1939.

The second stop on the tour, “Visions”, will explore the topic of man versus nature and seek to focus attention on how the two interact with each other.

Visitors will be invited to learn about the exploits of famous Swiss explorers and adventurers, including balloonist Bertrand Piccard and astronaut Claude Nicollier.

Natural disasters

The third part of the exhibition, “Risks and Caution”, will be devoted to the subject of how the authorities cope with natural disasters.

Visitors will be invited to watch television news footage of what happened in the tiny Swiss border village of Gondo, which was torn apart in 2000 after heavy rains triggered devastating mudslides and floods.

Another element of the exhibition, "Top of Science", will focus on Switzerland’s achievements in the field of scientific research.

A computer model designed to help reconstruct the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan will be one of the items on display. Albert Einstein’s Swiss passport is also expected to make an appearance.

The last stop on a tour of the Swiss pavilion will bring visitors to a multimedia presentation about the rebuilding of the Swiss Alpine Club's hut in the Monte Rosa mountain range.

Criticism

Switzerland’s plans to participate in Expo 2005 have not been universally welcomed.

Some Swiss parliamentarians have expressed doubt about whether the country should be spending millions of francs of public money on its presence at the global event.

But the government says the SFr15 million will be money well spent, and that the global exhibition will be a chance to explore and extend economic ties with Japan.

Organisers of the Swiss pavilion say they hope to attract at least 800,000 of the 15 million people expected to attend the event during its six-month run.

“It was never in any doubt that we would be in Japan for the Expo,” said Johannes Matyassy, head of Presence Switzerland, the government-funded organisation which promotes the country’s image abroad.

swissinfo

Key facts

Switzerland is spending SFr15 million on its presence at the 2005 World Expo in Aichi, Japan.
“The Mountain” was selected by a jury in 2002 from a shortlist of more than 50 projects.
Expo 2005 opens its doors on March 25 and runs for 185 days until September 25.

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