Plans Should be Flexibly Reviewed to Ensure Event Runs Smoothly

Preparations for the 2025 Osaka-Kansai Expo have been delayed. This is a national event that will bring together many countries and regions, and the government and relevant entities must do everything they can to move proceedings forward.

Of particular concern are the approximately 50 pavilions slated to be built by participating countries and regions, including the United States, the United Kingdom and South Korea, at their own expense. As yet, not a single application for construction permits has been submitted, prompting concern over whether the pavilions can be completed in time for the Expo’s opening.

Soaring prices for materials and a building industry labor shortage are likely making it difficult for participants to source contractors willing to meet the proposed budgets for the projects.

Some participants might withdraw from the Expo if the situation goes unaddressed; the situation is serious.

The government is asking participants to boost their pavilion-related budgets while also requesting cooperation from the construction industry. The event’s organizer — the Japan Association for the 2025 World Exposition — has reportedly presented the participants with a plan for the Japan side to make arrangements with construction companies and place orders on their behalf.

It is important for the organizer to deal with participants carefully by communicating effectively with them while taking their respective circumstances into account.

Observers have long flagged soaring costs for materials and labor. It is undeniable that the government and the association were overly optimistic and slow to act. It is hoped they will work with a sense of urgency to avoid the worst-case scenario in which the Expo is postponed.

It is realistic for the association to hold talks with overseas participants with an eye on having them reduce the size of their respective pavilions and simplify their designs. The organizer also needs to consider possible measures to deal with participants’ potential withdrawal.

However, it would do more harm than good if significant changes made to the facilities and exhibits resulted in a less-than-stellar Expo.

One-day adult tickets sold during the Expo will cost ¥7,500, far more expensive than the ¥4,600 tickets sold for the 2005 Aichi Expo. It is also worth noting that visitors will be dissatisfied if the event itself is not commensurate with the price.

In Japan, there have been a number of cases in which construction bids have fallen through. As a result, target prices have risen and there has been a shift toward discretionary contracts, triggering concern over rising construction costs.

The ¥185 billion needed to develop the Expo venue and construct the necessary facilities will be covered by the central government, the Osaka prefectural and municipal governments, and the business community. This means that public funds will be used for the event. Even though the Expo likely faces unavoidable expenses, such as soaring construction costs, the total cost of the project must be reined in as far as possible.

The theme of the 2025 Expo is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives,” and participating countries and regions will be presenting their vision for humanity’s future path. However, it is difficult to say that momentum for the event has been building. The government and event organizer should make greater efforts to spread information about the Expo.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 21, 2023)