Hours to Go: Fate of Astana’s EXPO 2017 Bid to Be Decided Tonight

ASTANA, Nov. 22 – Later today, representatives from the 161 member states of the International Expositions Bureau (BIE) will meet in Paris to decide which city will be hosting the specialized world EXPO in 2017. The vote will give the honour to one of the two candidate cities, Astana, Kazakhstan, or Liege, Belgium.

The Mayor of Liege, Willy Demeyer, noted earlier this month in the Financial Times newspaper in London that today’s vote “will certainly be the culmination of a magnificent adventure.”

Certainly, the adventure is going to be far from being over for at least one of the two candidate cities.

At a special joint press conference by the delegations of Kazakhstan and Belgium in Paris on November 20, Imangali Tasmaganbetov, the Mayor of Astana, said, “There is active work to be done to attract investment in construction, and in equity investment and public investment. And after the EXPO is held we will face another huge task to use the entire infrastructure that we will build in Astana for the exposition. It will be a huge exhibition complex which will demonstrate the latest achievements of science and technology not only in Kazakhstan but also in the states that participated in EXPO.”

Tasmagambetov said the city government of Astana would not just be building an exhibition centre to house the EXPO, but a centre of scientific research that would be of lasting value to the city and the nation.

“Holding the EXPO on one topic – the achievements of today – is not a final goal. The main objective is to further research that will give very good results in the future,” Mayor Tasmagambetov said. He invited everyone involved in the BIE’s decision-making process to enjoy the hospitality of Astana, regardless of what their decision will be.

Deputy Prime Minister Kairat Kelimbetov, the chairman of the Astana EXPO 2017 organization committee, is also in Paris. He said Kazakhstan had a responsibility before the world to successfully host the EXPO on the theme of energy for the future. “Since independence, Kazakhstan proved that it can carry global responsibility on its shoulders when it ended the operation of the world’s largest nuclear test site at Semipalatinsk. (With the theme for this EXPO), we are showing you our responsibility for establishing future global security,” he said.

Kelimbetov listed some of the advantages of hosting the EXPO in Astana: “We are next door neighbors with Russia, China and India,” he said. “Technically, up to 2.5 billion people would be able to come to Astana and to share their views and ideas on how to develop a ‘green economy.’ The theme that is offered is relevant and extremely important, not only for Kazakhstan but also for many other countries.”

“Astana is a very young city,” the deputy prime minister said. “In 2017, our capital will be celebrating its 20th anniversary, it will be the 60th anniversary of the founding of the European Union as the European Economic Community and we have an opportunity to discuss the agenda of the EU with many countries of the world.”

The press conference drew a sizeable group of reporters from Kazakhstan and Belgium who closely questioned the competing delegations.

The Kazakhstan delegation provided solid information on the country’s readiness to step to the plate if Astana is chosen.

“The Kazakh film was terrific and the applause rippled around the room and seemed to be genuine,” one participant told the Astana Times.

If Astana wins the bid to host the exposition, EXPO 2017 will be the first international exhibition of such a level ever to be held in any Central Asian country or member nation of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The issue will be decided by a secret vote on Nov. 22 at the 152nd General Assembly session of the Bureau of International Exhibitions (BIE) in Paris.

During the vote, President Nursultan Nazarbayev will be in Paris on a working visit.

The result will cap a two year campaign by the two competing cities. It is expected to be announced no earlier than 10 pm Astana time on Nov. 22

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