"In Greece I was the only visitor. When I walked through the tunnel of the philosophers, I was attacked zealous young Kazakhs," says James Palmer. "It's the Greek alphabet!", "Please, go take a picture by the sea!" they said.
The author explains that it was on the second day of the EXPO-2017 exhibition, which is held in the suburb of Astana. Usually this global event, where participating countries show the achievements in their pavilions and gather crowds of visitors. "But today, at the first ever EXPO in the former Republic of the Soviet Union, no crowds was not", says Palmer.
The exhibition is held in a specially broken Park. "It is called "the city of the future", but he's more like a giant Convention center. The organizers claimed that this territory is self-sufficient in terms of energy it gets from wind and water.
Each pavilion takes a room to multiple floors in a giant circle of new buildings surrounding a giant Orb of black glass in the center — the pavilion of Kazakhstan", — says the author. "There are two ways to infuriate Kazakhs to mention Borat or call this area the "death Star," said one delegate.
The author notes that in many halls there was no one but employees. In the pavilions of China, Germany or the U.S. he found approximately 20 visitors.
"Representatives of the host country for several years gradually reduced the number of expected visitors at this three-month event from 5 million to 3 and now to 2 million In the opening day there, according to official data, was visited by 10 thousand visitors (but it is a strong rounding-up)," writes the author.
For comparison: at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai was visited by 73 million people. "Astana has officially sold 670 thousand tickets, but there are serious doubts about the reality of many of these sales. But there is little doubt about the cost of the event is from 3 to 5 billion dollars", — stated in the article.
Why to EXPO chose Astana? And why Astana has applied? — asks the Palmer to in article Foreign Policy.
In the old days of the EXPO were the main news around the world the opportunity to throw dust in the eyes in front of a mass audience. During the cold war, the United States and the Soviet Union erected pavilions, where they boast of their own superiority.
But with the 80-ies of XX century the Western audience a little watching these shows. In the days of instant communication and cheap flights is not that interesting to see in the pavilion is a slice of Spain or Thailand. But increased the role of private corporations in the events EXPO.
"However, developing countries are still keenly interested in EXPO" — the author writes. Population still interesting to look at distant lands and peoples, and to governments this is a rare chance to show their best side in front of an international audience.
"Kazakhstan was bound to apply to this exhibition. In Central Asia, Kazakhstan possesses enormous natural resources, the most successful has risen from the ashes of the USSR" — the author writes. "The economy is growing steadily, although the press remains in chains, and corruption thrives. The reputation of Kazakhstan in the world is also still small," — says the article. Therefore, Kazakhstan seeks opportunities to host international events.
The author partly explains this "ego" of President Nazarbayev. But, in his opinion, there is a good reason: "How about other Central Asian States, foreigners poorly know where Kazakhstan is and who lives there. For national pride of Kazakhs, it is important to establish the history of the nation to tell the rest of the world (or, speaking the language of business, trademark to sell)".
"Kazakhstan spent on these activities billions: big costs for a country where almost half of the population still lives on $ 70 a month. But as the national history of a young country is a good option," writes the author. "What I really admire in Kazakhstan: in times when all others turn away from the world, they want to embrace," said Anthony de Angelo, Director of public Affairs at the U.S. pavilion.
The author notes that Kazakhstan has applied to host EXPO in 2012, and rival was the only one — the Belgian Liege. Because Kazakhstan has a lot of petrodollars, and Belgium suffered from the debt crisis, the EU, Kazakhstan won easily.
But Palmer is convinced that Kazakhstan has made a mistake by choosing to EXPO not Alma-ATA, where it is relatively easy to get the people of Kazakhstan and neighboring countries, and the new capital Astana. According to the author, this town is "a mix of a theme Park with the construction site", and a modern building, built by famous architects, "that's transformirovalsya and enter into battle with the Autobots.".
"In Astana many beautiful places, but it is semi-arid, and the hotel is terribly expensive: the prices are inflated due to foreign delegations and provincial officials, all the costs of their stay takes the host side," the article says.
The author continues: "in addition, almost been no efforts to attract guests from outside of Kazakhstan. Haphazard advertising campaign in Russia allowed to absorb only a handful of guests, Air Astana promised free tickets to the EXPO for all arriving by air, but at the airports of Almaty and Astana machines, giving out those tickets was broken," writes the author.
"In addition, many Kazakhs reacted to the EXPO with palpable resentment. Many are proud of the exhibition: "We have been preparing for this for four years! Even small children know what the EXPO!" — said Mykola Herman, an ethnically Russian citizen of Kazakhstan, owner of the store. But the social network in Kazakhstan in full complaints about the forced purchase of tickets, to redirect pension funds to Finance EXPO, as well as to the absurdity of billions of dollars of expenditure on the project, which flatters the vanity when "half the country still defecate in holes in the ground" — the author writes.
"And then there's the corruption. The government of Kazakhstan has recognized that the construction process has been stolen millions of dollars. Official in charge of EXPO, General Manager of construction and Executive Director "of the company EXPO" (SIC) was arrested for the theft, partly because of quarrels in the circles of the local oligarchic elite. It is not surprising that Kazakhstan is deeply corrupt country, and the EXPO, like any major event, gives the rats and thieves. EXPO 2015 in Milan was full of corruption scandals, which exacerbated the prevailing skepticism about this event," the article says.
"The government is chasing vagrants through the turnstiles to inflate the number of [visitors]," said the author of the secret a resident of Astana, who asked to remain anonymous. The author explains that in Kazakhstan "are often arrested dissidents". Builder Talgat said: "of Course, I will not go there! It's for people like you!"
But according to the assumption of the author, the main problem is that a large part of the EXPO-2017 is boring. The theme of "future Energy" means that they show endless commercials of major corporations about energy of sun and wind.
Palmer also believes that in the design of the pavilions of the few who put the soul. Demonstrated the same idea — for example, energy self-sufficient home.
The author found a few bright exceptions to the General rule — e.g. the German pavilion. Designer of the U.K. pavilion Asif Khan, showing the display of a graphene nanotubes, said: "If at least one child from Kazakhstan, seeing this, wants to be a scientist or engineer, so I've done my job".
According to the correspondent of Foreign Policy, sometimes one could see scenes reminiscent of the sense of the whole thing. American student volunteers took pictures with the locals and chatted with them in Russian. Some countries have wisely brought musicians. Palmer was glad when around the Lithuanian folk dance ensemble, a crowd gathered. But of the 20 spectators only four were visitors and not the delegates, he said.