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Quick List Info
Dates Open - May 15 to August 15, 1992. Open 93 days.
Attendance - 1,706,148.
International Participants - 45 nations, 7 international organizations.
Total Cost - $487.5 million to $650 million, according to the New York Times.
Site Acreage - 15 acres (6 hectares).
Sanction and Type - Sanctioned by the Bureau of International Exhibitions as a Recognized Special Expo.
Ticket Cost - Adult Daily - 25,000 lira ($21).
Photo top center: Expo Site in Genoa port with Aquarium in foreground and Grande Bigo in background, 1992, Unknown original source. Courtesy Pinterest. Column Top: Expo 1992 Columbiad Logo, 1992, Expo Authority. Courtesy Pinterest.
The expo that should not have happened perhaps is a harsh indictment of the small gem of a fair held in Genoa, Italy in 1992. But why would we say that? Perhaps because it was allowed by the Bureau of International Expositions in the same year as a relatively close by and much larger edition in Seville, and that hosting two expositions in the same year, something the BIE usually frowned against, was bound to hurt the smaller. But Genoa tried, taking the theme "Christopher Colombus: The Ship and the Sea" to new port heights in a site designed by Rienzo Piano, which spawned a rebirth in the city port area and an aquarium legacy. But the fair was poorly managed. And the fair, small in site size and particularly in comparision to Seville, could not meet its attendance goals. In the end, the ambitious project would fail in a number of its goals, but succeed in a few as well. It was fun, informative, and designed well. It prompted the urban renewal that initial planners projected.
When planners put together their business plan, they assumed that three to four million people would attend. That did not happen. The Bureau of International Expositions states that the official attendance was just over 1.7 million, although some participants note that it may have been under one million. They just couldn't compete with Seville for the world's attention. And mistakes were made. Poor promotion. No trash containers on the site, at least at the time of one report. Badly mismanaged. Reports of massive losses, $75 million over budget, and receipts only 29% of what was expected.
Above photo. Map of the Expo site, 1992, Expo Authority. Courtesy Pinterest. Below: Expo 1992 Genoa Aquarium and port, 1992, Original source unknown. Courtesy Pinterest.
So what was the expo about and what made it special? Well, it was about Christopher Columbus and his journeys to America, the native son of Genoa, and the event focused on the sea and exploration. Official theme was "The Ship & the Sea: Techniques and Instruments from Columbus to the Present." There was a large aquarium built to remain after the fair, and perhaps the most unique structure was an eight mast monument known as the Grande Bigo with glass elevator that rose the visitor to forty meter heights and a great view of the harbor and city. One World's Fair expert called it the best theme pavilion in fifty years. Forty-five nations participated. Seven international organizations came along for the expo ride. They were housed in the old warehouse district, which was converted by architect Piano into exhibit space. The acknowledged masterpiece from an exhibit standpoint was the Italian Pavilion.
Ted Allen, President of the Bureau of International Expositions - "BIE should never have registerd this event, which was totally overshadowed by Seville, and largely neglected by Rome. Legacy of waterfront development good, but a financial disaster, and poor attendance. But small size welcomed a future model, and internationals happy with low costs. Fine Italian pavilion."
Jim Ogul - "I think for the U.S. fairs there was more regional pride than national. I think the same was true in Genoa. Genoa suffered from taking place at the same time as Seville. Genoa had some funding difficulties from the national government."
Martin Manning, U.S. Information Agency - "Genoa was a little gem."
Alfred Heller - "Reuse of old buildings and redesign of waterfront in conjunction with the expo is audacious though hampered by lack of funds. The fair enters a vicious spiral of poor management, unreliable funding and low attendance."
BIE Special Expo
Bahamas, Bulgaria, Cameroon, China, Croatia, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Holy See, Hungary, Israel, Italian-Latin American Institute Collective Pavilion (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuala), Italy, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Malta, Monaco, Morocco, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Senegal, Spain, Switzerland, Tunisia, United States.
International Organizations - Community of Independent States, European Community, International Committee of the Red Cross, National Federation of Italian Union, Organization of American States (OAS), Scientific Italian Community, United Nations.
United States exhibit was largest national exhibit, five thousand square feet, past Italy with focus on the Chesapeake Bay. Amway was major corporate sponsor, as well as Ameritech, Hatteras Yachts, Lykes Lines, Ford and Delta Air Lines. Pavilion drew 190,076 visitors. U.S. exhibit housed in San Desiderio merchant home. Total Expenses of the United States pavilion were $2,921,220.
Open daily from 9:30 a.m. to midnight, with pavilions closing at 9:30 p.m.
Old buildings of dock section adjacent to old town on site built around the sheltered harbor. Exhibits housed in two four-story structures, including one renovated 19th century cotton warehouse. Also used four 17th century merchant homes.
High quality conferences on marine activities held in conjunction with the fair.
Two permanent buildings were constructed to remain after the exposition. The Aquarium, the largest in Italy and second largest in Europe, draws over one million visitors per year. A facilities center built for the fair also remains, as well as the Grande Bigo, an eight mast monument.
Those in Charge
Commissioner General of Expo 92 was Genoa citizen Alberto Bemporad. Renzo Piano was the designer of the expo site. Jay Van Andel was the United States Commissioner-General.
Sources: Beyond the Horizon, U.S.I.A. Final Report, Genoa, Italy "Columbo 1992 Expo"; World's Fairs and the End of Progress by Alfred Heller; Fairs! Fairs! Fairs! USIA & U.S. Participation in World Fairs since WW2" by Martin J. Manning; World's Fair Magazine; Wikipedia Commons; BIE-paris.org; New York Times.
Photo column top: View of Genoa site at night. Courtesy Pinterest. Bottom: Genoa Aquarium, 2012, Andrzej Otrebski. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.
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