City finally shows it's serious on World's Fair
The Edmonton Journal
Saturday, January 26, 2008
EDMONTON - Hallelujah, I say. After years of loose talk on the subject, Edmonton city council has finally approved plans for an initial review of a possible bid for a World's Fair in 2017 or 2020.
Whether Edmonton ultimately pursues a bid or not -- and that's still a big "if" at this early stage -- city council's willingness to dream big should be applauded. It's another signal that Edmonton has outgrown its goofy inferiority complex, and now sees itself as a major-league city.
The green light for the preliminary study, granted by council at an in-camera session in December, follows months of informal talks about a potential bid involving some 20 local business and political leaders.
The initial review, slated to be completed by fall at a cost of roughly $500,000, will involve the formation of an advisory committee, the hiring of a project manager, and consultations with other levels of government.
If council then decides it's still committed to pursuing a bid, it's expected to commission a full-scale feasibility study, to be completed by 2010.
The federal government, which must endorse any city's bid to host a World's Fair, would then have to select which Canadian city it supports by 2011.
Montreal, which thrust itself onto the world stage during Canada's centennial year by hosting Expo 67, has already made clear its intention to pursue a World's Fair bid for 2017 -- Canada's 150th birthday.
Several other Canadian cities -- including Ottawa, Hamilton and possibly Calgary -- are also rumoured to be mulling possible bids for 2017.
The Bureau International des Expositions (BIE), the Paris-based body that sanctions international expositions, must decide by 2012 which city would host any World's Fair in 2017.
Ward four councillor Jane Batty, who is overseeing Edmonton's World's Fair initiative along with veteran city councillor Karen Leibovici, says the secretive nature of the discussions to date partly reflects competitive realities.
"I understand both Toronto and Montreal are interested in a possible bid, and Calgary is also considering it. Of course, Canada will only be able to support one bid," she notes.
"So part of the talk has been, 'When do we do a feasibility study, and when do we bring in the citizen aspect of it, and when do we go public?' We don't want to show our hand too quickly."
Despite Batty's understandable caution, there appears to be plenty of enthusiasm for considering a bid among those who have attended exploratory sessions over the past few months.
"Personally, I'm more than happy to endorse this idea, one hundred per cent," says Ken Cantor of Qualico Developments, which recently unveiled plans to build a new $250-
million, 28-storey tower for city-owned Epcor Utilities.
"This (a World's Fair bid) is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's one of the few, singular events available to a city that gives it both an opportunity and a commitment to grow up, and step onto the world stage. For those cities that do take it on, it's wonderful how they coalesce around it."
Ruth Kelly, publisher of Alberta Venture magazine and former chairwoman of the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, is another backer.
"I'm extremely pleased city council has seen the value of exploring this. An exposition in Edmonton is an ideal way to showcase our city to the world. It would be a tremendous boon to our long-term economic and cultural viability."
Even if Edmonton tries but fails to attract a World's Fair, Kelly argues that the exercise can't help but generate a lot of positive buzz for the city.
"This is a tremendous opportunity to galvanize people towards a specific goal, and a vision of what the city can be. To get people excited and focused on a common goal is a tremendous asset on its own. That's how great cities become great."
Denise Carpenter, a senior VP at Epcor, is another supporter. "Any time we can do anything to promote our city internationally and to inspire the people who live here, we should do it," she says.
"This would put Edmonton on the international stage, as other events have done over the years. I've only attended one discussion meeting so far, but I'd absolutely participate and help in any way that I could."
Although talks to date have been of an exploratory nature only, the under-utilized city centre airport site has been proposed by some as one possible venue for hosting a World's Fair.
Proponents say the airport's scale, its concrete runways, its proximity to downtown, and its convenient transit connections -- particularly in light of recent talk about a possible future LRT line to the adjacent NAIT campus -- make it an attractive choice.
Others say Edmonton's sprawling river valley would be the ideal location for a World's Fair, although critics worry that millions of potential visitors would quickly overload the valley's fragile ecosystem. Safety issues would pose another big challenge.
But these are details. For now, the good new is, Edmonton is finally starting to think like a big city. And that has to be a good thing.
© The Edmonton Journal 2008
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If this actually happens, could somebody build one of these? Puh-leeeez???
From Encyclopædia Britannica Online