KOIZUMI TAKES PART

Ground broken on Aichi expo

Kyodo

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the Aichi Expo 2005 on Thursday, kicking off the much-delayed construction of the expo sites less than three years before opening day.

Flanked by Aichi Gov. Masaaki Kanda and Shoichiro Toyoda, a Toyota Corp. honorary chairman who heads the expo organizing body, Koizumi turned over some earth at an Aichi Prefecture park that will be the main venue for the exposition.

The fair, which will focus on development and environmental protection, will be held from March 25 to Sept. 25, 2005, as the first world expo of the 21st century.

It will also be the first large exposition to be held in Japan without a strict theme since the 1970 world expo in Osaka.

Forty-nine countries and five international organizations, including UNESCO, have expressed intentions of participating in the event.

Promotion of the exposition has gotten off to a bad start, however, due to delays in finalizing plans for event sites. Environmental groups opposed a proposal to turn Kaisho Forest, the other venue, into a residential area after the fair.

The opposition gained momentum when a nesting place for goshawks, a hawk species in danger of extinction, was found in the forest in 1999.

The prefectural government abandoned the plan in 2000, proposing instead to set up the main venue in the 158-hectare park and use only 15 hectares of the forest.

The expo’s total construction costs are estimated at 135 billion yen, 90 billion yen of which will be footed by the national government, Aichi Prefecture and Nagoya. Some 23 billion yen will be contributed by corporations and other organizations. Proceeds from publicly managed gambling will cover 22 billion yen of the total.

The expo organizing body estimates that 15 million visitors will show for the event, less than half the original estimate of 40 million.