I'm gonna put this in the "would be cool, but never gonna happen" category: news that governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is spearheading efforts to host the 2020 world's fair - in Silicon Valley, no less. Wyatt Buchanan writes in the San Francisco Chronicle that efforts are underway to make that happen, starting with a trip to China.
OK, naturally I love the idea that the gov is raising public awareness about the international expo concept by attending the 2010 World's Fair. I mean, Shanghai is running the largest and most expensive expo in history and virtually no one in the United States has heard of the thing. Schwarzenegger's overseas trip is helping to change that. Heck, one of my students mentioned the visit in our Communication and Culture class!
Then again, the idea of a U.S. world's fair - our first since the New Orleans debacle of 1984 - faces obstacles that may be insurmountable. These include the perception that such a gargantuan event will cost more money than it raises, especially now that people don't need a world's fair to get a taste of global culture or witness innovations in technology. Some say, reasonably enough, that the internet - really, the shopping mall - killed the international expo idea decades ago. At least for Americans.
Oh, and let's not forget the fact that the U.S. isn't even a member of the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions, which sanctions these events (and, for some reason, monster horticultural shows). We pulled out of that group years ago. Add the shoddy state of our pavilion at the Shanghai expo and it appears that America has abandoned any pretense of leadership in the world's fair arena.
Things can change, of course. We can decide to mount a memorable expo and transform Silicon Valley into a true center of 21st century thinking. A homegrown 2020 extravaganza could happen. But it'll take a transformation in American attitudes about these international events to get us started down that road. That begins with one thing: knowing that there's a great world's fair going on right now.
Learn More: Read Jim Wunderman's San Jose Mercury News, August 28, 2010 editorial in support of the Silicon Valley World's Fair: http://www.mercurynews.com/opinion/ci_15917732
Update: San Jose Mercury News September 12, 2010 story: Plans unveiled for bid to put World Expo 2020 at Moffett Field (with rendering of proposed fair!)