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For six months in 2002, the area of Seeland will be the location of the Swiss national EXPO 02, the first such event in the country for over 35 years. Rather than being a display of technical achievements in various fields, the Expo is planned to be a themed exhibition showcasing the culture and outlook of Switzerland at the turn of the millennium, investigating “the potential of a nation” (to quote the official blurb).
It will be focused on five temporary sites, or “arteplages”, which will each have a particular theme. Neuchâtel’s arteplage will have exhibitions and events on the theme of nature and artificiality; Murten’s on the moment and eternity; Yverdon’s on “the universe and I”; and Biel/Bienne’s on power and freedom. The arteplages, built of ecologically sound, recyclable materials, will be moored just offshore in each town, and exhibitions, displays and happenings will take place both on the arteplage itself and in waterfront parks. The fifth, Jura arteplage, with the theme of limits, will be mobile, trundling around the three lakes throughout the Expo summer. Organizers suggest that it’ll take you three days to tour the five arteplages. Ecologically sound modular hotels and restaurants either within the arteplages or nearby are planned to boost existing tourist infrastructure, along with extra trains and package deals to the area.
That’s the theory anyway. In practice, the whole project has been dogged by controversy from day one, with boardroom conflicts regularly finding their way into the newspapers, unpopular appointments and bitter resignations of organizing staff, along with a general puzzlement among the Swiss public as to exactly what the Expo is for, and what on earth is supposed to be happening in it. On October 4, 1999, the Federal Council officially pushed back the Expo from 2001 to 2002 amidst ongoing rows about funding. At the time of writing, although planning has been under way for two years or more, very little has been finalized and corporate sponsors – who provide four-fifths of the budget – are starting to get cold feet. It’s impossible to say at the moment what you’ll be faced with on the day, or whether the whole thing will be worth your hard-earned francs or not. In January 2000, the Expo organizers confirmed some Fr.300m of private pledges to boost the Fr.1.3bn of federal funds, and called for new artistic tenders for the relaunched Expo 02. The fiasco looks set to stumble on, with the public kept up to date via the Expo Web site.
Entry prices for the original Expo 01 were fixed at around Fr.120 for three days, or Fr. 48 for one day, but with the postponement, prices could easily change again. For bookings and current information, contact Expo 01, 4 Place de la Gare, CH-2001 Neuchâtel (032/726 20 01, fax 726 20 05, www.expo-02.ch).
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