OSAKA – In an attempted display of local enthusiasm for the 2025 World Expo, Osaka rolled out the red carpet this week for a senior official from the organization that will decide next November who will host the event.
But with the central government focused on ensuring a successful Tokyo 2020 Olympics — and a public relations blitz by rival bid city Paris emphasizing support among younger generations — concerns are growing in Osaka about how best to drum up domestic and international support among broad and diverse groups of people.
Dimitri Kerkentzes, deputy secretary-general of the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) concluded a three-day visit to Japan on Thursday, during which he met with Diet members in Tokyo, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui in Osaka and toured the site where the city hopes to stage the event.
While Kerkentzes offered words of praise for the proposed site, Yumeshima, an artificial island in Osaka Bay, he also told a group of Diet lawmakers involved in the bid that national enthusiasm is critical for the bid. Osaka and Japan, he said, cannot merely tout the success of past expos such as the 1970 Osaka Expo or the 2005 Aichi Expo and expect to win the rights to stage to next one.
“Take the time to explain the benefits of another World Expo in Japan, not only to Osaka but to all of Japan,” he said in an address to Diet members in Tokyo on Tuesday. He also met briefly with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
In Osaka on Wednesday, Kerkentzes told Matsui and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura they must think far beyond 2025.
“The task you have is to convince and explain to citizens not only the big benefits that they will have in hosting such an event again in 2025, but also the long-term benefits that they will have from such an event,” he said.
During his tour of Yumeshima, Kerkentzes strolled the streets of central Osaka, where he was greeted by throngs of people, some waving flags bearing the message “Osaka/Kansai, Japan Expo 2025.”
An official BIE delegation will arrive in Osaka sometime before March to conduct a technical survey and evaluate the level of official and public commitment to the event. But persuading Kansai, let alone the rest of Japan, to be enthusiastic about an expo with increased national focus on the fast-approaching Tokyo Olympics is problematic.
To date, Osaka and Kansai have emphasized the local economic benefits of hosting the expo.
The Japan Research Institute estimates that if Osaka gets the expo and a casino resort, the Kansai region will see an economic windfall if up to ¥2.6 trillion in 2025, and up to ¥1.1 trillion annually thereafter.