Germany's first-ever world's fair is to close Tuesday having drawn far fewer visitors than expected and leaving behind a huge debt, the EXPO-2000 chief Birgit Breul said.
Speaking to reporters last week, she said: "It's a financial catastrophe."
The deficit is expected to be 1.2 billion euros (about $1 billion), some six times the 200 million shortfall that was projected before the fair opened in the central city of Hanover on June 1.
The projected number of visitors for the five-month fair had been 40 million. But only 16 million came.
Still, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who comes from Hanover, said the world's fair here had been a "complete success."
"That from a financial view not all the calculations worked out does not reduce the success of the Expo," the chancellor said, arguing that it had proved to be "a people's festival", overcoming barriers and bringing folk together.
Schroeder said the value of the exhibition was not to be measured in money terms.
Helmut Werner, president of the surveillance council for the exposition, said one problem may have been that the event should have taken place in a city like Berlin, which is a larger metropolis, with better rail, air and road access and is also more well-known.
Another problem was the high price of the entry ticket, which was 69 marks (35 euros/$28).
Organizers gave special evening discounts, which helped to draw in more people from the region.
The Expo also made a key marketing mistake at the beginning, portraying itself as a learning experience, instead of stressing fun, organizers have admitted.
The original advertising slogan was "Come live the future," stressing the science-oriented national expositions instead of the cultural events, including concerts by rock stars like Britney Spears.
The organizers changed gears however, making their main slogan "You'll have fun at the Expo."
But then the hard-luck fair got some bad publicity when Princess Caroline of Monaco's husband, the German noble Ernst-August of Hanover, was photographed by the mass-circulation Bild newspaper urinating against the wall of the Turkish pavilion.— (AFP)
© Agence France Presse 2000
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)