National

Osaka makes final pitch to host 2025 World Expo

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Osaka made its final pitch Wednesday in Paris to host the 2025 World Expo, emphasizing the Kansai region’s history as a center of Nobel-prize winning scientific research and telling expo delegates that the central government is willing to spend ¥24 billion to ensure 100 countries are able to participate in the event.

But questions remain whether Osaka, the government and business communities can effectively lobby enough delegates from the Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, the organization in charge of overseeing World Expos, to win the majority of the 170 votes needed before the final decision is made in November.

Shinya Yamanaka, a co-winner of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine and the head of Kyoto University’s Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, was the featured speaker at Osaka’s presentation in Paris. In his remarks, Yamanaka spoke of science opening a door of wonder, saying it was at the 1970 Osaka Expo where he, as an eight-year-old boy, experienced the wonders of life science, helping to set him on his career path.

“I will do whatever it takes to make the expo a great laboratory, a laboratory highlighting the beauty of life — or inochi as it’s called in Japanese — which will enthrall and amaze future scientists from all corners of the world just as it happened to me 48 years ago,” he said.

Also in attendance were trade minister Hiroshige Seko, Osaka Gov. Ichiro Matsui and Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura.

Seko told the BIE it should not worry about whether an Osaka-Kansai Expo would run into financial problems and promised Japan would provide aid to countries that need it in order to attend.

“From pavilions and communications to travel and lodging, we will provide some 100 countries with assistance amounting to $218 million (about ¥24 billion), which is $2.2 million per country,” he said. “The government of Japan is committed to making Expo 2025 Osaka-Kansai everyone’s life-changing experience.”

Wednesday’s presentation was Osaka officials’ last opportunity to meet with all BIE delegates, who will vote for the 2025 host in November. Yekaterinburg, Russia and Baku, Azerbaijan are also bidding.

The three cities will turn their attention to lobbying individual BIE members ahead of the vote. Key to victory will be where the bureau’s 49 African countries cast their votes. Europe’s 47 votes and Central and South America’s 30 votes will also play a significant role in the decision.

Osaka has made some attempts to lobby for African votes, but has spent little time courting Central and South American delegates. Osaka and Kansai business leaders also worry that many European votes will go to Yekaterinburg. Paris, once the frontrunner, dropped its bid earlier this year citing cost concerns.