Expo '95

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Expo! 95
Expo95.png
The logo of the 1995 World Expo
Overview
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NameExpo! 95
MottoNew Beginnigs
Participant(s)
Countries45
Organizations2
Location
CountryAlva
CityUrgabom
VenueNew Harbor Gardens
Timeline
Awarded1992
OpeningMay 22nd, 1995
ClosureOctober 15th, 1995
expositions
PreviousExpo '90 in Stromharad, Asendavia
NextThe New Millennium Expo in Rilanon, Christie Island

Expo '95, stylized as Expo! 95, was the 1995 edition of the World Exposition, also known as the World's Fair. It was held in Urgabom, Alva from May 22nd to October 15th, 1995. It is widely considered to have been the worst edition of the Expo in the history of the event.

Bidding

Expo 95 was originally awarded to Tavaris, who had sought to host the expo one hundred years after they hosted the Worldwide Exposition of 1895. However, in January of 1992, an 8.7 earthquake in the Gulf of Northwest Gondwana near Tovar, Tavaris caused significant damage to the city, including to the ongoing development along the coastline where the Expo was to be held. This, along with political and popular opposition to the Expo and the associated cost overruns that had already exceeded the planned budget by $2 billion SHD, caused the Tavari government to inform the Administrative Board for World Expos that it could not host the event.

The Administrative Board for World Expos held an extraordinary session in February 1992 in which it accepted the Tavari withdrawal and opened bidding for a new host. The bidding was to be open for 90 days. In that 90 day period, only Alva applied to host the 1995 edition of the Expo. Alva had just ended a civil war that year, and in May of 1992 was still being governed under a temporary cease-fire agreement until a new Constitution could be ratified. Alva centered this fact as a major draw in their bid, stating that the chance to host a World Expo would give the country a chance to come together for a "common purpose of peace." They also emphasized that Urgabom, long the country's wealthiest, most populous, and most cosmopolitan city, had been relatively unscathed by the war and had a functioning metro system and major transit links by land, sea, and air. Additionally, Tavaris pledged to provide administrative assistance in event planning to Alva. The Administrative Board very narrowly awarded the bid to Alva, with a large minority voting instead to cancel the 1995 Expo.

Planning

An aerial view of the New Harbor Gardens.

The Alvan government established the Expo 95 Organization Committee to handle the set up and execution of the event. The Committee was led by Arban Ganbold, the elder brother of the first Khan under the new Constitution, Arban Chuluun. Ganbold was 94 years old at the time he was appointed (Alvan elves can typically expect to live to around the age of 110) and had no experience in event planning, instead having been the president of a manganese mining firm. The committee had a total of 73 members, many of whom were prominent political donors to the Khan's election campaign or leaders of various tribes from across the country. The large number was an attempt to prevent rekindling of tribal rivalries, but in giving so many people representation, it came to be felt that the committee was weakened by constant arguing. Additionally, like Chairman Ganbold, many members of the committee had little or no formal experience in event planning.

Because of the short amount of time the Committee had to prepare for the event, it was decided to use as many buildings and facilities that were already built as possible. A plot of vacant land immediately adjacent to industrial warehouses at the Port of Urgabom was acquired and was intended to be used as the primary grounds for the event. Additionally, the Committee actually leased several of the adjacent warehouses from the Port Authority to use as exhibition halls, a decision that was unpopular with many nations and led to over a dozen countries to withdraw from the Expo. The vacant land was to be landscaped and was named the "New Harbor Gardens." Alva's own exhibition hall was to be centrally located in the Gardens, and the one ultimately built took up more than a third of the Gardens' land area.

The national government agreed to fund an extension of the Urgabom Metro in order to improve access to the site. As the Metro already ran to the Port of Urgabom, an extension of only six kilometers was needed. However, the City of Urgabom asked for a major overhaul of the Metro network, establishing a brand new north-south line running mostly parallel with the coast that would run for 48 kilometers out to the farthest suburbs. A compromise plan of an additional 21 kilometers was agreed upon. Additionally, the City of Urgabom underwent a major reconstruction of thoroughfares and side streets in the Harbor district. Both the city and the national government issued substantial numbers of bonds to finance the construction, with a cost that ultimately reached $12.4 billion SHD. Due to cost overruns and a drop in the price of oil, however, the City found itself in dire financial straits and ended up defaulting on $6.8 billion of its debt related to the project. The New Harbor Line of the Urgabom Metro remains unfinished, and while some portions of the line were running by the start of the Expo, the station closest to the grounds was not. The road network reconstruction project was also unfinished by the start of the Expo, causing significant traffic backups in Urgabom that led to the year 1995 being called the "Year of Hell" by the Urgabom Times.

The membership of the Organization Committee changed frequently over the course of the planning and execution of the Expo. Chairman Ganbold died in May of 1994, and initially the Khan appointed his younger brother Arban Gansukh, a 70 year-old who at the time of his appointment was unemployed after having been a professional gambler nearly all his adult life. Gansukh had been in prison for wire fraud for four years and had only been released that March. As the planning was already seen as a major debacle, his appointment was vastly unpopular among nearly every stakeholder in the project. His appointment was withdrawn and the Committee would be led by a series of Acting Chairpersons until the end of the event, with no permanent replacement named. Membership on the Committee was widely seen as a way for the Khan to either repay favors owed to other politicians or to build new political relationships. The Committee served largely as a body to issue lucrative contracts to businesses owned by the members. In one particularly egregious example, a $12 million SHD contract was issued to Manganext, the manganese mining firm once owned by the late Arban Ganbold, for "landscaping consultation." For the $12 million, the company provided a statue of Tugri Khan made out steel (with particularly high manganese content) that would stand in the gardens. An art appraiser hired by the Urgabom Times estimated the worth of the statue to be less than $40,000.

Ultimately, the planning of the event was widely criticized as a disaster, as well as "one of the most stunning and brazen operations in pure, wanton corruption ever seen," according to a post-mortem review of the Expo done by the Administrative Board for World Expos. Of the 77 nations that had originally signed up to participate in the Expo, only 45 actually did. In a near-unanimous vote in 1995 - taken while the Expo was still going on - the Administrative Board banned Alva from ever hosting or even participating in another World Expo, a ban which remains in place to the current day.

The Event

One of the warehouses used to host exhibition pavilions outside of the New Harbor Gardens.

The Expo opened on May 22nd, 1995 - over a month later than originally planned due to delays caused by the transit construction. The New Harbor Gardens themselves were widely lauded as an example of landscape architecture and drew praise from nearly all the participant nations. Along with the Alvan pavilion, the Gardens were home to the halls for Great Morstaybishlia, Asendavia, and Tavaris. However, every other participant was required to set up in the leased warehouses, with some warehouses split between as many as four countries. A significant oversight - perhaps the most visible besides the transit problems - was that the Organization Committee apparently did not consider the need for improved plumbing infrastructure in the areas. There were no public restrooms built in the New Harbor Gardens, and many of the warehouses had only one or two restrooms each. Additionally, all the plumbing infrastructure in the warehouse district was designed for elven use, meaning that members of species of smaller size such as dwarves and vulpines found it more difficult to find facilities that were comfortable for their use. Lines were ever-present the entire time that the pavilions were open, with many people waiting for hours. The Organization Committee and the City of Urgabom would be sued for the plumbing oversight, a suit that would lead to a $708 million SHD settlement in 2000 that, on top of the construction debt, bankrupted the city.

On June 4th, a fire broke out in the warehouse that was home to the exhibitions for Furnifold, Pyrovalia, Shango, and Qumar. The fire was believed to have been caused by faulty electrical wiring. A rumor that the initial spark was caused by someone urinating in a corner of the building near an electrical outlet rather than wait in line has never been proven but remains widely reported. There were 12 injuries reported, and the exhibitions of Shango and Qumar were a total loss. Furnifold and Pyrovalia were able to repair some of the damage and re-opened their exhibitions nearly two months later inside the Tavari exposition hall, after Tavaris offered them space.

The summer weather in Urgabom, usually warm and dry but with some of the heat and dryness mitigated by the nearby sea, was exceptionally hot in 1995, with temperatures reaching 40 degrees Celsius or higher more than twenty-three times over the course of the Expo - 12 of them in one consecutive stretch in August. As most of the leased warehouses had no air conditioning, many countries had to close their exhibits in the heat. Seven countries decided not to re-open their exhibitions after closing them in the August heat wave. Two exhibition guests, an 87-year-old man from Alva and a three-year-old girl from Asilica died from heat stroke at the event, some of the only casualties ever recorded at a World Expo. Asilica eventually terminated formal diplomatic relations with Alva after Alva refused to apologize or pay reparations to the family of the girl, and only re-established relations in 2014. A statue of the girl, whose name was never released out of privacy concerns for the family, stands outside the Asilican Embassy in Alvakot.

By the close of the Expo on October 15th of 1995, out of 45 initial participants only 30 remained. Even the Alvan exhibition had closed early, on September 30th, because by that time the debt the Alvan government had incurred was so high as to require the government to lay off the staff it had hired to run the exhibition. There had originally been a concert planned for the closing ceremony, but all three of the musical acts the Organizing Committee had booked pulled out after not receiving the payments outlined in their contracts. The closing ceremony ended up being nothing more than a 30-minute speech by Khan Chuluun that was completely improvised and done after he had been drinking since 11 that morning. The speech was slurred and largely incoherent, although the Khan praised the participating nations for "their steadfast resolve during this crisis."

After the Event

Several participating countries refused to tear down their own exhibitions, and the Organizing Committee had no funds to do so after the event ended. Some of the warehouses remained full with exhibition materials for years, until the Port Authority of Urgabom razed the entire district in 2004. The New Harbor Gardens are still present on the site and are maintained as a tourist attraction, though not at the same level of extravagance as during the Expo. The areas adjacent to the Gardens are now business districts with some housing developments, and the New Harbor District is considered one of the more trendy neighborhoods in the city. Among some of the things from the Expo still standing are the manganese statue and an ornate wooden gate that was part of the Alvan exhibition. Additionally, in 2015 the Alvan government paid to erect a plaque in the gardens to memorialize the two deaths at the Expo, as was part of their agreement with Asilica to resume diplomatic relations.

In 1996, the Great Khural, Alva's national legislature, passed the Major Event Anti-Corruption Act, which forbids organizing committees for major events such as sports tournaments or international expositions from issuing contracts to firms owned by, or that have a significant investment by, members of the Committee. Additionally, the family member of a national politician cannot serve as an officer of the Committee. This was widely seen as having been done by Alva in an attempt to try to pursue further international events. However, since the 1995 Expo, no bid by Alva to host such an event has ever been successful.