Minnesota made a final push Tuesday to win the World’s Fair in 2023, as international delegates in Paris prepared to choose from among three finalists including Bloomington.
The state represents the United States’ bid to host Expo 2023, a three-month exhibition focused on challenges facing humanity. The other bids are from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Lodz, Poland.
Delegates from 130 countries are set to vote Wednesday in Paris, with a decision expected by noon local time.
If Minnesota is selected, it would be the first time in nearly 40 years that the United States hosted a World’s Fair.
“There’s just a lot of buzz,” said Mark Ritchie, the CEO and president of the Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee. “The Minnesotans are really behind this bid [and] supportive of taking the risk.”
Ritchie, Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead, Bloomington City Manager Jamie Verbrugge and more than a dozen state and U.S. representatives are in Paris for the vote.
“I genuinely believe we have a fair shot at this thing,” Winstead said last week before departing for Paris.
The Minnesota contingent was said to be in nonstop campaign mode, meeting with ambassadors and delegates and practicing the presentation that it will make to the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE) before the vote. State Rep. Ilhan Omar, DFL-Minneapolis, is one of the presenters.
Winstead and Verbrugge met Tuesday with representatives of several nations, including Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Turkey and Vanuatu, a small nation in the Pacific Ocean.
“This is no small affair that we’re trying to do here,” Verbrugge said from Paris. “It is something that will be memorable for decades if we can pull this off.”
The theme: health care
Wednesday’s vote is the culmination of five years of work by Minnesota and the U.S. State Department that included lobbying, symposiums and countless meetings with ambassadors and diplomats. Companies, foundations and individuals have given an estimated $1.7 million toward the bid, Ritchie said.
The theme of Minnesota’s bid is Healthy People, Healthy Planet, a focus on advancements and innovations in health care. If the state wins, the fair would be held from May to August 2023 on a 59-acre site near the Mall of America, including a former farm property that Bloomington agreed to buy for $32.3 million in September.
The committee believes the World’s Fair could bring about 12 million visitors — putting the daily numbers close to the average crowd at this year’s Minnesota State Fair — and generate a national economic impact of $4 billion, with a local impact of $1.5 billion.
Poland’s bid is focused on the reinvention of cities, and the theme of Argentina’s bid is “Creative Industries in Digital Convergence.” If Poland wins, the fair would be held in 2022 rather than 2023.
A Minnesota fair is expected to draw more visitors than that in Lodz, where an estimated 8 million are expected, and Buenos Aires, where more than 6 million visitors are anticipated.
Specialized expositions like Expo 2023 are usually held between two larger World’s Fair events. The last of its kind was held in Kazakhstan this year; the next World’s Fair is set for Dubai in 2020.
World’s fairs long had a reputation for introducing some of the most notable architectural innovations in the world. Examples include the Eiffel Tower, which was made for the 1889 universal exposition in France, and the Space Needle, built for the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle.
The last time the U.S. hosted a World’s Fair was in 1984 in New Orleans. The U.S. left the BIE in 2001 and rejoined with the Minnesota bid this year.
Wednesday’s vote is a secret ballot in a ranked-choice format. A bid wins if it draws two-thirds of the votes in the first round. If no bid reaches that amount, the top two bids then vie for a majority vote in the second round.
Miguel Otárola • 612-673-4753