Expo '92 is forecast to exceed all records as the biggest exhibition of its kind, but the important question is whether it will live up to long-term expectations. Hashi Syedain reports.
For decades past, tourists have come flooding into Seville. Well, perhaps not flooding: most have have remained supine on Spain's southern beaches. But thousands of visitors have filtered through, drawn by the balconies, narrow alleyways and Moorish air of the old Andalusian capital.
This year's visitors will, however, find an additional attraction. Across an arm of the river Guadalquivir lies Europe's biggest building site where, a year from now, the gates will open on the 1992 Seville Universal Exposition. Even today, those who wish can survey the scene from a panoramic tower ascended, thanks to German technology, in a revolving viewing platform. From a height of 90 metres one looks down on an emerging pattern of roads, lakes and gardens, which will shortly be lined with pavilions from over a hundred countries.
The view extends far beyond Expo's 500-odd acres, across the city and its surrounding, rather featureless plain, to the distant mountains. If Spanish dreams come true, this relatively poor agricultural region will soon become a centre of European high technology. For the whole point about Expo is that its influence should long outlive next year's extravaganza. Technology transfer is the name of the game. The organisers hope that at least some of the multinational companies taking part will stay on permanently. Certainly what they bring will in many cases remain. The communications network established by Rank Xerox, for example, will be bequeathed to Andalusia "as a contribution to technological development and to training a generation which will take Andalusia into the 21st century".
Big plans indeed. Expo '92 is scheduled to exceed all records for events of this kind, which began with the great exhibition in London in 1851. But since the War exhibitions have been held in Brussels, Montreal and Osaka by wealthy nations celebrating their achievements. Spain, by contrast, despite recent strides, is still struggling to develop a modern industrialised economy. Expo '92, along with the Barcelona Olympics, is being used as a catalyst to accelerate this process with a host of infrastructure projects. In Andalusia itself the investment in transport is scheduled to exceed $7 billion.