The six-month-long international fair has opened in Milan in what is expected to be a platform for Italy to showcase its strengths. The event's theme this year is, "Feeding the planet, energy for life."
Italy opened the Milan Expo 2015 to the public on May1 as organizers expected 20 million visitors over six months. The inauguration ceremony featured a spectacular concert by tenor Andrea Bocelli, Chinese pianist Lang Lang and a performance by the city's renowned La Scala opera.
Rome was expecting to earn 10 billion euros through increased tourist revenues and potential investment.
The theme for this year's expo is "Feeding the planet, energy for life," which would focus on bringing "the representatives of 145 countries together convening around a key topic, that is food and food security, and the question of how to feed nine billion people," Philip Reeker, the US Consul General in Milan, told the Associated Press.
Some 140 countries, the United Nations and the European Union had their displays at the expo, the pavilions of some of which were designed by architects such as Daniel Liebeskind and Norman Foster.
The expo also had its share of dissent after around 800 demonstrators protested the presence of private sponsors like McDonalds and Coca Cola in the fair, together with NGOs like Slow Food, which defends sustainable farming methods and local gastronomical traditions.
Food corporations did not address the Expo's slogans of "feeding the planet," one protestor told the Associated Press, adding that people were tired of big companies which made profits from other people's lives.
Mismanagement and corruption
French President Francois Hollande, Russia's Vladimir Putin and UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon were expected to attend the fair, which was scheduled to run until October 31. The event was however plagued by corruption scandals and construction delays.
"It could have been done better, it could have been done elsewhere, it could have been done quicker. I am hearing a lot of criticism in these hours, as is right and proper," Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi confessed. "But the expo is here and it will be very beautiful," he added.
However, critics were worried that the Expo could become a platform where countries demonstrated their diplomatic skills, sidelining the food fair's real intention in the process. Renzi had to face a last-minute cancellation from India, after an unresolved dispute involving two Italian sailors on trial for killing two Indian fishermen.
At the international level, the Vatican's top culture official, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi welcomed an invitation to the Turkish pavilion and extended an invitation to Ankara, saying his country's exhibits were "dedicated to themes that can be shared also by the Muslim world."
North Korea was the most recent entrant to the Expo and was included in a list of participants from different "island" nations - a possible allusion to Pyongyang's isolation from the international community.
mg/rc (dpa, AP, AFP)