Wednesday, May 25, 2016

World Expo 2025? No thanks

As Toronto mulls hosting World Expo 2025, most of the same considerations I outlined in my piece on biding for Olympic Games apply.Among these considerations are:
  • it is expensive (estimated at somewhere between $1 billion and $3 billion, which is a suspiciously broad and inexact estimate to be working with), and Toronto just does not have that much money to be throwing around or to be saddling future generations with;
  • 2025 is along time in the future: we have no idea what economic and financial constraints the city will be operating under in nine years' time;
  • it will not make money, despite the positive spin proponents are putting on that aspect (Hanover, Germany, which hosted the 2000 Expo, lost about $1.75 billion on the event, at least partly because half as many visitors as expected actually turned up);
  • speaking of attendance, Milan, Italy, which hosted the last Expo, in 2015, received about 21 million visitors (about the same as Hanover), while Toronto's proponents are, for some reason, anticipating 40 million - they, and the city, will almost certainly be disappointed;
  • the vast majority of visitors (around 95%) are expected to be from Canada and the USA, i.e. Toronto's usual visitors, and international travellers seldom make up more than 5% of total Expo visitors;
  • Expos are 5 yearly events, and they usually last for up to 6 months - so Toronto's short and precious summer season (which is also the main infrastructure maintenance season) will be completely commandeered for, and subsumed under, the project;
  • Expos typically do not even leave any useful buildings - most of them are temporary structures - although it can be argued that even the infrastructure legacy of major sporting events like the Olympic and Pan Am Games are dubious at beast (for example, do we really need a new velodrome?);
  • neither can it be argued that the event would jumpstart development of Toronto's Port Lands, development of which is already under way, and anyway it would be unwise to allow a vanity project like this to hijack the capital and infrastructure of the city for years to come - public works projects should be assessed on their intrinsic merits and the city's needs, and not based on the requirements of a white elephant with little long-term value to the local populace.
Luckily, Mayor John Tory is nothing if not cautious and, despite the blandishments of ex-Mayor Art Eggleton, I really can't see this sneaking through city council either.

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