BIE Secretary General: Splendid China on the World Expo Stage

date | 2019-01-02 Source | World Expo Museum


  In 2007,Loscertales attended the second conference of expo participants(Photo by Xiang Xinrong)

  Back in 2010, Shanghai was a scene of jubilation because of the World Expo 2010, and many people got to know a bearded Spanish man called Vicente G. Loscertales, Secretary General of the Bureau International des Expositions (BIE).


  In 2018,Loscertales attended the first world expo forum for development and international cooperation.(Photo by Gu Yuting)

  Eight years later, at the World Expo Museum on the former site of the Expo 2010 Puxi Area, Mr. Loscertales came back to Shanghai again.Now in his 70s, he is full of spirits while wearing a suit, but his eyes were filled with time-felt emotion when he walked onto the podium to deliver a speech.

  Founded in 2017, the World Expo Museum in Shanghai is very young. But China’s history with World Expos dates back to many years ago. China became a member of the BIE in 1993, one year before Mr. Loscertales became Secretary General. Since then, he has maintanined a connection with Shanghai and China.


  In 2018,Loscertales in his office at the World Expo Museum(Photo by Gu Yuting)

  An encounter between China and the world


  Expo 1851 London

  Known as the Olympics of culture, economics, science and technology, the World Expo, with a history of over 160 years, enjoys great popularity around the globe. Speaking of the reasons for this, Mr. Loscertales believes that Expos offer a program of urban renewal, the possibility of international dialogue, and offer citizens the possibility of seeing the world in one place around one theme.

  China took part in the first World Expo which was held in London in 1851, when the Qing Dynasty ended its closure to the world because of the war. However, it was not until the late 20th century that China really opened its door to the outside world. In 1999, China hosted the 1999 World Horticultural Exposition in Kunming. Then in 2010, it hosted the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, the first ever World Expo held in a developing country.


  1999 Kunming World Horticultural Exposition

  From 1999 to 2010, China’s experience in hosting Expos is a mere moment compared with the long history. However, in that short moment China created two new landmarks in organizing expos, said Mr. Loscertales.“China organized at that time the best horticultural expo in history, and also a model of how horticultural expos should be in the future. In 2010, Shanghai was a landmark also in the history of world expos.”


  In 2009,Loscertales visited expo site(Photo by Xiang Xinrong)

  The World Expo 2010 set a number of records: the largest number of participating countries, the most visitors, and the largest number of visitors on a single day.“It was an encounter of a great nation with 5,000 years of history and the rest of the world that allowed the countries to understand China and to see how China was progressing. How the citizens were becoming more and more environmentally conscious, how modernity was present in China, and how China was becoming one of the most innovative and active countries in the world,” said Mr. Loscertales, believing the Expo was an opening of China to the world and the world to China.

  Meanwhile, through the Expo 2010 platform, other countries also demonstrated their achievements in urban civilization and concepts of urban development, and learned from each other’s advanced experiences in urban transportation, ecological environment creation and maintenance, clean energy utilization, water use and garbage disposal.


  Expo 2010 Shanghai

  The duration of the Expo was 184 days, but the changes Shanghai underwent due to the event are more about the future of the city. Since Shanghai won the bid for the event, tremendous changes have happened. For instance, in October 2004, there were only three and a half metro lines in Shanghai. By 2010, 12 lines were running across the city. In order to minimize the relocation of citizens nearby the World Expo Park, the authorities managed to keep 380,000 square meters of residential buildings and heritage architecture instead of following the old path of large-scale demolition and reconstruction. Eventually, 10,000 households stayed in the area. These efforts not only alleviated the short-term pressure brought by the hosting of the World Expo, but also demonstrated the future development ambitions of Shanghai to become a super city. As Wu Zhiqiang, chief designer of the World Expo 2010 Shanghai noted,“The Expo has pushed the future of the city ahead.” This exactly reflects the theme of “Better City, Better Life”, and as Mr. Loscertales said,“Expos are a strong catalyst for a city’s transformation and give vitality to urban development.

  Friendship with Shanghai


  In 2011,Loscertales visited Expo 2010 Shanghai commenoration exhibition(Photo by Xiang Xinrong)

  The World Expo 2010 was an encounter between China and the world. It also contributed to a strong bond between Mr. Loscertales and Shanghai. As Secretary General of the BIE, he witnessed the bidding, preparation and organization of the event, during which he put forward many suggestions exclusively for China and helped Shanghai host a successful World Expo with efficient and orderly preparation.

  For Shanghai’s commitment to attracting at least 200 participating countries and international organizations, he traveled to many BIE member states to promote the World Expo Shanghai and demonstrated his support for and confidence in Shanghai. Acting as an ambassador of the World Expo, he made speeches at Shanghai Library and talked with Shanghai citizens online to engage more people in the brilliant event.


  Mr. Loscertales talked with Shanghai citizens online about World Expo 2010 in September 2006.(Photo by Eastday)

  Though his visits to Shanghai were frequent, he was always busy with meetings and did not have much time to meet with citizens. But he is very excited about his nickname given by Shanghai people.“When I was in the street during the expo time, I saw so many people recognizing me, and calling me Laoluo. Many people approached me to take photos and to speak with me, and I know how proud they were of the Expo and how happy they were of the transformation of the city.”


  In 2011,Loscertales attended 《Shanghai Manual》launch event

  As a devoted supporter of Shanghai, Mr. Loscertales facilitated Shanghai’s contact with the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs and contributed to the issuance of the Shanghai Declaration of the World Expo 2010, thus making Shanghai a pioneer and advocator in solving urbanization issues. Later, he helped with the launch of the Shanghai Manual – A Guide for Sustainable Urban Development in the 21st Century. In the manual, the BIE contributed many cases and suggestions for the development of large-scale events and cities, leaving an invaluable legacy from the World Expo Shanghai.

  With World Expo Museum


  In 2015,Loscertales visited expo museum site(Photo by Xiang Xinrong)

  After the Expo 2010, he advocated Shanghai’s idea of building a World Expo Museum and authorized it to be BIE’s only official museum and documentation center. He also offered advice on the management of the museum and the collection of exhibits, recommended board members and design companies, and promoted the museum to BIE member states.


  In 2012, Loscertales was awarded "Shanghai Honorary Citizen".

  In 2012, Mr. Loscertales was honored as a Shanghai Honorary Citizen. But he said with modesty:“You never deserve the honor. The honor is always a gift.... For me, I feel that Shanghai is part of my life. I have organized 15 expos, but no one [city] like Shanghai is in my heart and in my body.” Speaking of his connection with Shanghai, he has an unfinished goal: to learn to speak Shanghainese.


  World Expo Museum

  This year, on his visit to the World Expo Museum, Mr. Loscertales said he was much impressed by the museum. In his eyes, it is not only a beautiful and excellent instrument to promote the values of World Expos, but also a way of attracting the whole international community and also the national companies and the national actors of China to this institution, in order to create fruitful exchange.


  The first World Expo Forum for Development and International Cooperation.

  On December 13, 2018, the museum hosted the first World Expo Forum for Development and International Cooperation. Organizers of World Expos 2008, 2010, 2017, 2020 and 2025 gathered to reflect on past experience, seek mutual cooperation, and share visions of future World Expos.

  “The museum is the most important instrument outside the Expo, to promote and to encourage people to organize World Expos,” said Mr. Loscertales, speaking highly of the role of the museum. What’s more, he thinks it is the link between past and future:“It is the present, but with a view of the future, and the memory of the past.”

  Transformation of China Pavilions


  China Pavilion at World Expo 1992 Seville. Source: XinhuaNet

  Mr. Loscertales’s ties with World Expos started with the World Expo 1992 Seville. Since then, he has noted the transformation of China Pavilions at World Expos. The exhibitions, presentations and structures of the pavilions represented the image of China in different periods of time.


  China Pavilion at World Expo 2008 Zaragoza. Source: Chinanews

  “I think the pavilions of China reflect the modernization of China. If you go back to 1992 and you saw the pavilion, it was a traditional-style pavilion, very much the traditional architecture and design: the red, the lamps,... very much like the traditional image we have of China.” However, since 2005 (World Expo Aichi), he notes that the design of the China Pavilion became more refined, as the exhibition industry in China developed. And all the themes of the Expos have been very well developed.“What you see is the progress of China in every part: the progress in design, in theme development, in innovative machinery and projection elements. Everything in the pavilions reflects the increasing technological improvement of China and also the social transformations of the country.”


  International Horticultural Exhibition 2019 Beijing


  Expo 2020 Dubai


  Expo 2025 Osaka

  In 2019, the World Horticultural Exposition will take place in Beijing. Then at World Expo 2020 Dubai and World Expo 2025 Osaka, China will also demonstrate its strengths in technology to the world. But it seems that Mr. Loscertales has higher expectations of China. He expects China to have a leading role in future Expos:“The cooperation of the museum and the BIE, I think, guarantees a very bright future. In the case of China, I am convinced that in not too much time, we are going to see some other big projects of expositions in China.”


  (Photo by Gu Yuting)


  Vicente G. Loscertales’s wishes

  “Expos represent an improvement of the living condition of a country and a very important process of opening up to the world. This is what China has been doing already for more than two decades. This process is becoming more and more active and I expect in the future more great events in China as a result of this determined policy of the Chinese government of opening up to the world.”