PARIS (AP) — Delegations from Brazil, United Arab Emirates, Russia and Turkey are gathering in Paris on Wednesday to find out who will host the 2020 World Expo.
At stake are billions of dollars in investment, tourism and a moment in the global spotlight.
While the World's Fair no longer holds the popularity of other global events like the Olympics or World Cup, it remains a chance for millions from around the world to discuss and see the business of the future.
The Bureau International des Expositions, the Paris-based intergovernmental body that has organized the fairs since 1928, will decide among four contenders: Dubai in the UAE; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Yekaterinburg, Russia, and Izmir, Turkey. Delegates from the BIE's 168 member countries will vote behind closed doors to choose the winner.
The next world expo is scheduled to take place in Milan in 2015. Last year Astana, Kazakhstan, was awarded the 2017 world expo.
In Dubai, the logo of its bid for the 2020 expo is plastered on police cars, convenience store bags, storefronts, taxis, receipts, government buildings and even on a flag on Mount Kilimanjaro. Dubai's rulers say their futuristic Persian Gulf city of skyscrapers is ideal to host the event.
A spending spree is already underway for the expo — even before officials announce which city will host it.
Dubai estimates a successful Expo 2020 bid will generate $23 billion between 2015 and 2021, or 24 percent of the city's gross domestic product. They say total financing for the 6-month-long event will cost $8.4 billion. But many worry that increased building and real-estate speculation driven by the event could put it on the cusp of another financial crisis.
Brazil is already hosting next year's World Cup and the 2016 Olympics — but will it get the World Expo, too?
One of the highlights of Sao Paulo's bid is a proposed renewable energy tower that will convert solar energy into the electricity needed for the event.
The city wants to create a new economic, tourism and education hub with hotels, schools, shopping malls, shops and Latin America's largest convention center. Afterward, the pavilions would be used as schools, health centers and theaters, and the lodgings for employees will be converted into a low-cost housing project.
Russia has been treating its bid to hold the expo as a state priority not unlike its bids to host the Winter Games and the World Cup.
Officials expect that hosting the expo in the Ural Mountains city of Yekaterinburg would cost Russia $4 billion, the local governor said last week, adding that half of it would come from the budget and the remaining half from private investors. The organizers are planning to build 103 pavilions for the expo and accommodation for exhibition participants, which will later be converted into a residential area.
Russian officials said the expo will help to attract investors and their money to the Yekaterinburg area.
Turkey's loss of its bid to host the 2020 Olympic games in Istanbul was a political blow to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The disappointment adds to the stakes of landing the World Expo for Izmir, Turkey's third-largest city.
Izmir, an Aegean coastal city formerly known as Smyrna, is pushing global health and environmental issues for its bid. To bolster its case, Turkey has chosen award-winning architect Zaha Hadid to design the park for the exposition.
Turkey's transportation and communications minister, Binali Yildirim, told reporters this week that he believes the bid has the support of more than 60 countries.
Associated Press reporters Aya Batrawy in Dubai, Stan Lehman in Sao Paulo, Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow, and Suzan Fraser in Ankara, Turkey, contributed to this report.
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