Publicat: 11 Iunie, 2014 - 08:14

Televiziunea italiană a adus scandalul din Milano Expo 2015 în faţa publicului pentru a lumina cazul fostului ministru de Interne italian, Claudio Scajola care a fost arestat la Roma. Scajola a fost şi ministru de Dezvoltare Economică sub mandatul lui Silvio Berlusconi, fostul prim-ministru al Italiei.

When Italian television last month brought the scandal of the Milan Expo 2015 to light by filming former Italian Interior Minister Claudio Scajola being arrested in Rome, it was a like a landslide. Mr. Scajola had also served as Economic Development Minister under Mr. Silvio Berlusconi, former Prime Minister of Italy.

Mr. Scajola made no comment as he was filmed by reporters being led to prison. But he was not the only one - another arrested was Angelo Paris, the number two man after the Procurements Manager for Expo 2015. In total, 6 persons were arrested.

Prosecutors accused Scajola of helping Amedeo Matacena, a former Forza Italia politician convicted of links to the Mafia, flee justice. It is believed Matacena is in Dubai now.

Edmondo Bruti Liberati, a Milan prosecutor, said the suspects were taped by police in suspected efforts to offer bribes to secure contracts for next year’s world trade fair, Milan EXPO 2015.

“Entrepreneurs and politicians would get together daily in meetings where money was observed changing hands,” he told a news conference. Photos of handing over envelopes on a daily basis in restaurants in Rome and Milan where shown on the news.

Two of those arrested were former senior politicians of the former Christian Democrat and Communist parties who had been involved in the “Tangentopoli” Bribesville scandals of the early 1990s that exposed kickbacks between business and politics in Milan.

And it was also the first time many Italians had heard about Expo 2015. But that is no wonder when you live in Southern Italy where people struggle hard to make their living in a country that has changed the government twice within a single year.

The subject of criminal investigations and Mafia connections made headlines all over Italy, with newspapers revealing a huge practice referred to as “cupola di appalto” (dome contracts) a practice going on for years.

Premier Minister Mr. Matteo Renzi who headed to Milan last month, has said this universal world exhibition which is expected to generate several billion euros in revenue for Milan, would go ahead as planned. Good.

But the fact is that only 50% of the original Expo projects and bids submitted in 2008 by Milan’s former Lord Mayor of Milan will come to life.

Current Lord Mayor of Milan, Mr. Pisalpia, said in an interview: “If we would have withdrawn our bid in the aftermath of the economic crisis in 2008, it only would have cost 20 million euros to get out, but now we have to go on.”

According to the business Paper “il sole 24ore,” many of the planned infrastructure projects will not be ready by next year.

The most important road for event transportation, Circular Road (Pedemontana) to Milan, has not yet received an updated financial plan (projected to cost 5 billion euro), and only 20 kilometers of the initial 70 kilometers might be ready by 2015. Additionally, another direct link from Monza to Rho (Milan’s fairgrounds) is on hold. A special underground link is not going to be finished before 2017, but the Expo will still open of course on May 1, 2015.

One of the main Expo venues – the vie del Aqua – with an investment of 160 million euro is undergoing heavy protest by waves of environmental activists, causing construction to come to a standstill. Also, “Cascina Merlata,” a huge area designed to be a parking lot for over 20,000 cars, including the Expo Village, is under investigation. And “The Vie del Aqua,” the water channels, thought to be used for venue irrigation (at a cost of 160 million euro), has come under heavy protest by the “Comitati ambientalisti” (Committee of Environmentalists). “Architetture di Servizio” Design which was contracted for development of public facilities is also under investigation.

Despite previously promising an outstanding Expo 2015, this new wave of corruption claims is overshadowing the work of the troubled World Exhibition, now seriously delayed. So far little progress can be seen of the gigantic Expo area near the fairgrounds of the Rho Fiera.

Expo 2015 is expecting 147 countries to participate in 60 “padiglionis” halls – a record number, as the last World Expo held in Shanghai had 42 halls.

For tour operators who want to participate, they must buy a minimum of 5,000 Expo 2015 tickets upfront –many are finding it difficult to take the risk under current conditions.

The initial high expectations of 21 million visitors to Milan Expo 2015 now seems to be rather optimistic. While Dubai with it is mega infrastructure projects and gigantic airport is aiming to achieve the target of attracting 20 million annual visitors by 2020 and hosting the next Expo in Dubai, Milan is facing severe logistical problems due to a lack of infrastructure and a proper transport system.

Speaking to a General Manager of a Russian incoming tour operator in Italy, Expo 2015 is not an issue for Russian tourists traveling to Italy. Russian love to travel to Italy, and shopping in Milan is one of their favorite options, but this, too, will very much depend on how things turn out on its own political front as it related to the Western world. Moreover, if heavy sanctions are applied by Western governments, there is great chance that Russians will not travel to Europe any longer, and this is of great concern to many Russian tour operators. Already Russians are looking in to Chinese islands as a destination for their summer holidays, and Turkey will likely receive large numbers as well.

Talking to the owner of 5-star hotelier in Italy, he confirmed this trend. He noted that arrivals from Russia are down by 10 to 15% in the second quarter of this year, and luxury shopping by Russian tourists in Milan has dropped 15%.

Alessandro Rossi, the official appointed Expo tour operator, is said (by the Italian travel trade media) to have signed an agreement in China for 750,000 Chinese arrivals. But that is no wonder. Within the last 10 years, Milan’s Chinatown population is now 300,000 Chinese inhabitants (nobody knows the exact number, and apparently nobody seems ever to die), therefore more growth for Expo 2015 seems imminent.

But let’s be realistic and look into a few things which will make traveling in Italy a lot easier for the first-timer and will make all these expected millions of visitors to Expo 2015 a lot happier - small changes that don’t cost much but work wonders.

For instance, what happens to tourists when the high-speed train arrives late?

It will give them all a headache.

My train to Milan arrived 15 minutes behind schedule, and because of that, I lost all my ongoing connections. And most foreigners do not know that they have to make a new reservation for the next train - this means practicing a lot of patience and waiting in long queues. But if you don’t change your reservation, you will end up having to buy a completely new train ticket.

In my case, I was offered a “un posto in piede” (standing up) ticket for the next high-speed Freccia Rossa train. “But I have paid for a seat,” I said. “Well, you arrived late,” was the answer I received. If I accepted this “offer,” it meant I would have to stand for 2 hours in the train.

As I still had 40 minutes left before I would need to board the next train, I went downstairs to the Railway Ticket Office at Milano Centrale (the main Railway Station of Milan) in order to find out who is paying for my hotel room… or how to proceed if I needed one due to the delay. But when I pulled the next number for the waiting list and received number 465, I knew I had little chance of being served on the same day, since number 202 was next number shown on the display to be served on this hot afternoon.

While taking the number, a man approached me and said I should go over to the ticket machine to buy a ticket, telling me it is faster. I told him to get lost. He said I was unfriendly, and he moved on to woman at the ticket machine offering his help. Be careful, as this is the crucial moment when you can be glad if you still have your wallet in your handbag that you told that pickpocket to scram. The police threw him out a few seconds later.

It also gets expensive for travelers if they forget to stamp their railway ticket in one of the few yellow machines prior to boarding the train. But many of these little yellow machines have no ink (especially in the Rome Airport Fiumicino, and one might find oneself on the train paying a fine… in cash of course. But rather than miss your train for not stamping your ticket, you hand over the cash. This particular system does not exist in many other countries in Europe – but most tourists are not familiar with it, and it is a very costly experience.

But Italians are masters at improvising, and it is for sure that they will come up with suitable solutions for Expo 2015, working wonders in the limited time left for next year’s world expo.