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Thursday, October 20, 2005

The Unofficial take on Aichi World Expo 2005 - Mammoth heads, robots and the Private School club

World Expo was like a Private School Fair, to which the public schools were also invited. (obviously a public school teacher writing!)
It was clear who had the bigger budgets, but not always obvious what their message was. The biggest purse strings were held by the corporations such as Hit.... and Toy... (Toyota city is located next to the Nagakute site), Mitsu.... and so on. These were also the most popular exhibitions. Hit.... scored a 6 hour wait in queue on our last day there, 140 000 visitors were there that day.

Queues will be a lasting memory of the Expo for many visitors, with the initial line up for entry at 9am, queues at pavilions, queues for drinks, queues at the restaurants and of course queues to buy souvenirs at the end of the day. Finally, crowds waited for up to an hour to get on the uni-directional "Linimo" Hover train back to Nagoya.

"Nature's Wisdom" was the 'theme' of the expo, although Nature actually struggled to be heard. Still, France's pavilion, offered a film, flashing images on to four walls and the roof. Sobering images included dying wildlife; huge stockpiles of trash and desparate people, to remind the private school brigade of the rest of the world out there. That is those who were listening!

There were plenty who weren't interested in the messages. What is the Japanese' love affair with Theme Parks and spectaculars? Walking through some pavilions, it was difficult to stop and even think about interpretations with the pressure of the crowd to keep moving. Some were always in search of another "sight", or "experience". These included an 88 metre Ferris Wheel; the biggest Kaleidescope in the World (Certified by Guinness); the head of a mammoth transferred from Siberian permafrost to Nagoya; a pink fluoro Mt Fuji; giant TV screen and a re-created house from the Japanese popular anime, "Tonari-no-totoro". The final show on the "Koi pond" at 8pm included images of a monkey on a spraying water screen and a giant Snow Monkey head, which rose up from the water of the lake and then slowly revolved in a grotesque 360 degree loop.

The Expo outwardly expressed environmental concerns. Alongside the "global loop", a path encircled the site, where there were occasional sets of 8-10 rubbish bins, all for a different type of rubbish. Separating their garbage seemed to assuage the consciences of thousands of people daily adding to incredible piles of waste.

The public school pavilions, such as Bangladesh, Mongolia, Pacific Islands had no lines and consisted largely of small commerce, selling knick knacks, crafts and clothes.

In all of this, there were some glimmers of hope. The NGO pavilion, showcasing non-government programs. The removal of mines, assistance for AIDS victims, reminders of fair trade and the "other". The Be Good Organic vegetarian cafe, a simple demonstration of the alternative to mass-produced and consumerist, chemical soaked foods. Indigenous representation in even some of the "private school" pavilions.

I wonder whether the coming Commonwealth Games in Melbourne will reflect the original unfair trade set up by the original British Empire. Is that all these multi-national events are set up to be? Are we really going to cheer Australia's success in the pool, as opposed to Fiji, Bangladesh and Zambia? My hope is that the political system will one day be turned on its head. Whatever the case, in the meantime, isn't it possible for us to deal less in deathly ecological and political destruction and re-discover what is really important in our world?


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