Thessaloniki expects EXPO 2008 to provide a boost to its economy

Thessaloniki – A mini «future city» will be built in western Thessaloniki if the city is awarded the EXPO 2008 at the end of the year. A few days ago, the city’s candidacy was presented on the grounds of the Thessaloniki International Fair. Part of the presentation included the architectural plans for the 25-hectare EXPO site in the area of Sindos. The architectural plans will form part of the file that Thessaloniki will submit to the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) by February 2. The other two cities bidding to host the EXPO 2008 are Trieste, in Italy, and Saragossa, in Spain. (It should be noted that EXPO 2008 is not part of the major expositions, the next of which will be held in Shanghai in 2010, but part of a series of smaller-scale exhibitions that last from 3-6 months and are still considered major undertakings.) Some of the EXPO site buildings are indeed impressive and very modern. The administrative building will have the shape of an acorn, while the Media and Communications Center will dominate the site with its 60-meter height. The congress center will feature a revolving dome. The buildings and grounds will reflect the «Mother Earth» theme chosen by the Thessaloniki bidding committee. As Helexpo Chairman Michalis Michailidis told Kathimerini, each of the Expos left behind a symbol, beginning with the Crystal Palace in 1851, but this was not always a monumental building. The coordinating committee for the bid is headed by Minister for Macedonia-Thrace Haris Kastanidis and includes representatives of the city’s most important public bodies. The coordinating committee wants to educate the inhabitants as much as possible about the bid, which it calls a «national cause.» Coordinating committee members emphasize that the bid is the largest undertakingf since Athens successfully bid for the 2004 Olympics. Committee secretary Dimitris Bakatselos, a well-known businessman, says that, should Thessaloniki win the bid, it would serve as an «antidote» to the much-feared slowdown in economic growth after the Olympics. If the 92 BIE representatives vote for Thessaloniki in December 2004, the city will be transformed over the next four years and will benefit enormously. The modern EXPO site will be built in what is now an industrial area, certainly not the city’s most attractive part. It will offer swift links to the city and port and, for the duration of the EXPO (May 1 – July 31) will truly be an object of global attention. There will also be other event, which will extent from Mt Olympus to the south to Mt Athos in the east, Kastanidis says. The city is looking to the EXPO for the beginning and completion of long-promised transport infrastructure projects and a needed economic boost to the area. The expo site will host delegations from 149 participating countries. The total exhibition space will be 76,000 square meters and 140,000 visitors are expected daily. Hosting EXPO 2008 is expected to cost 500 million euros, of which 300 million will go toward building the site. It is estimated that EXPO 2008 will help create 30,000 jobs in the space of a decade. According to sources, Thessaloniki is ahead in the race against Trieste and Saragossa. But the rival cities are still lobbying hard. However, it was Thessaloniki’s presentation of its project last December in Paris that was judged the best. Winning the bid will now have to be achieved through tireless diplomacy.

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