‘Ok let’s start again, just whose baby is this anyway?’
So it’s almost over. I thought about leaving this blog until Milan Expo 2015 actually closes on 31 October, but having gone practically native (as a visiting British Diplomat accused me of recently), I’m not sure if I can imagine there actually not being an Expo. It’s a kind of Stockholm Syndrome, but exerted by an event not a kidnapper.
Looking outside the UK Pavilion office at the passing crowds, with new visitor number records being broken every day (over 3 million visitors with 30,000 people a day seeming normal now), it seems inconceivable that soon they won’t be here, and I won’t be here to listen to ever more interesting stories as to why they should be allowed into the UK Pavilion first.
One couple passed their very small child to friends in a kind of relay – in order to queue jump. Some have faked injuries (I broke my leg / sorry to hear that when? / quite recently / really? / well, three years ago, but it still hurts in wet weather...).
There have been a few variations of ‘but the Pavilion Director / Commissioner General / Pavilion Mascot (a stuffed cuddly bee, by the way) / bloke I met in a pub, said it was ok’. When all else fails, pulling metal barriers out of the way and stepping into the queue, seems a quick fix – something which could lead you to having your arms and legs torn off in London.
It all goes to show that the UK Pavilion remains one of the most popular on the World Expo site. Based on comparative visitor numbers over the past six months, it’s proved one of the most popular British attractions altogether – with design credentials endorsed by 8 individual awards so far, ranging from the International Prize for Best Pavilion Architecture at Milan Expo 2015 to the Blueprint 2015 Award for Best Project using Public Money.
In its final month, this strong UK offering has continued to draw international high profile and celebrity visitors to our pavilion, everyone from Gorgio Armani (King George to the Italians), to Bollywood actor Jeetendra Madnani, several international ice skaters, rugby players, chefs, actresses and apparently the winner of the ‘Most Unconvincing Broken Leg Award (MUBLA)’.
The Italian Expo 2015 hosts have ensured global focus on its central theme of ‘Feeding the Planet’ through a rich programme on site for World Food Day on 16 October attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The UK’s programme included a debate on the ‘Future of Global Food Security’ led by Sir Mark Walport, the UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor, and Lord Stern chairing a Climate Change Summit. Dr Gina Radford, the UK Deputy Chief Medical Officer, led a seminar on ‘Childhood Obesity, the Other Side of Malnutrition’. All examples of how the UK is helping to lead the debate on truly international issues and challenges.
Overall Expo 2015 has been an amazing event to be part of and as we lurch towards the final weekend, your correspondent is left feeling a little like the Deputy Governor of some tiny, far flung British possession overseas. We know we’ve got to give it back, we know on the stroke of midnight on the 31 October the Union Flag comes down, but until then we will all: ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’...