After months of preparation and advertising, the big day finally arrived: May 1st marked the grand opening of Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy. Unfortunately, the event became an unexpected horror movie scene.
Over the last couple of months there have been a lot of rumors that the “No Expo” group would potentially protest Expo 2015 on its opening day. Over the course of the year, many peaceful protests have been held around the city, but nothing could have predicted the big finale that took place on the 1st, with more than 500 people in black bloc, wearing gas masks, and taking over Milan.
The protest was peaceful up until Corso Magenta, when all broke loose. The urban guerrilla tactics ended with 11 hurt and 5 arrested, parked cars being burned, store windows broken, and a bank set on fire. This protest, by No Expo, was organized to draw attention to issues of citizenship and work in Italy, as well as to criticize corruption, the country's finances, and residents' access to resources. Unfortunately, the black bloc ended up obscuring the meaning of their own protest movement. The violence and devastation they wrought on Milan completely obscured their movement's values.
The No Expo movement was correct in that international fairs always put a considerable amount of pressure on the host city. The opportunities brought by these events can only be taken advantage of after challenges have been surpassed. Balancing the financial costs and time management of projects is crucial, as is being honest and open with the public. Job opportunities, the improvement of urban infrastructure and mobility, and a reinvented city image are just a few of the advantages of being a host city.
But what happens when opportunities go to waste and funds raised don't seem to materialize into something concrete and tangibly good for the city? This is when the residents protest and start asking questions, as occurred in Milan on May 1st. And when citizens' questions are slow to be answered, a vicious circle is begun.
Looking at the history of Expo, there are some cities who overcame these challenges, and others who got crushed by the pressure. Which will Milan be? After all, Expo 2015 is not only important on the Milanese level, but on the national level, where it is meant to enact a ripple effect. Italy is counting on Expo 2015 to jumpstart a comeback from its economic crisis. Will it succeed?
The first weekend Expo opened, there were over 60 million visitors. But what will happen next, especially considering how many expositions have yet to be finished, remains to be seen.
How do you think Expo 2015 will affect the future of Milan's urban development? Have you ever attended a World's Fair and what was your experience? Please share your thoughts and your city's stories in the comments area below.
Credits: Images by Alexandra Serbana. Data linked to sources.