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With a month to go until the host of the 2025 World Expo is selected, Osaka officials are casting a nervous eye toward Baku, the city they increasingly see as their toughest rival.

Osaka and the Azerbaijani capital, along with Yekaterinburg, Russia, are vying for the right to hold the event. The Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions will decide the winner on Nov. 23.

After Paris withdrew from the competition earlier this year, Yekaterinburg, which had barely lost to Dubai in bidding for the 2020 World Expo, had been seen by Osaka’s political and business leaders as the city to beat. Few took Baku seriously.

But that began to change after it became clear that Baku’s theme, centered on the future development of human capital, was capturing the imagination of many BIE delegates. With a well-oiled international public relations machine and deep connections in Paris, Osaka’s leaders began to grow more concerned about Baku’s chances.

Osaka then found itself scrambling after Baku bid officials made an appeal to the BIE delegates in June to consider cities that had never hosted an expo before. Osaka hosted the 1970 Expo while Japan most recently hosted the event in 2005 in Aichi Prefecture.

“Baku is a strong rival, and both Japan and Azerbaijan are racing hard to the end,” Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura said after returning from a promotional trip to Paris earlier this month.

The other concern in Osaka is Baku’s ability to outspend it when it comes to international lobbying. Though falling oil prices are hurting its economy, Baku’s long history as an oil-rich city on the Caspian Sea allows it to hire an extensive network of international consultants to help make its case to BIE delegates.

Osaka, by contrast, appears to be relying mostly on the central government and the Kansai Economic Federation to push its case abroad, although, in addition to Yoshimura’s Paris trip, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui gave a presentation on the expo to African delegates at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Tokyo earlier this month.

Osaka bid officials are now hoping international criticism of Azerbaijan’s human rights record will prove to be a factor for BIE delegates when they cast their votes. They are positioning themselves as the “safe” choice, in every sense of the word, much as Tokyo positioned itself as such for the 2020 Olympics.

First published in The Japan Times on Oct. 22.

Warm up

One-minute chat about Osaka.


Collect words related to bidding contests, e.g., race, win, competitor.

New words

1) vie: to compete, e.g., “The shop has to vie for customers with the new supermarket.”

2) outspend: to spend more than, e.g., “Don’t outspend people just to show off.”

Guess the headline

Osaka casting a nervous eye toward rival B_ _ _ in bid for 2025 W_ _ _ _ E_ _ _


1) Where is Baku?

2) What happened in June?

3) What makes Baku a strong competitor?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What is your image of Baku and do you think it is a strong rival to Osaka?

2) Would you like to see Osaka host the World Expo. Why or why not?

3) What do you expect the Expo to be like?


東京オリンピックの開催に向けて準備が急 がれる中、次の国際的な式典開催に向けて 大阪がアピールを重ねています。当初は 優勢といわれていたものの、決定まで1か月を切った今日本の関係者には不安の色が 見えているようです。スポーツの祭典に続き万国博覧会という大イベントが日本にやってくるのか、その場合のインパクトがどのようになるのか朝の会に参加し皆さんで話し 合ってみましょう。


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