Open US' expo tent, rival groups say

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 March, 2009, 12:00am

A rival design team and a group of American expatriates in Shanghai are calling on the USA Pavilion organising committee to 'open the tent' to outside help to make sure the World Expo 2010 project goes ahead.

They warn the organisers need to take a more inclusive approach and consider cheaper alternatives to the US$60 million design.

The two groups made their comments in response to an article in this week's Sunday Morning Post, in which the organisers played down rumours of fund-raising difficulties and stated the country was '100 per cent in' for the expo.

Although the United States has pledged to build a pavilion at the six-month-long event, it is relying entirely on private donations. It has yet to sign a formal agreement with the Shanghai authorities, and reportedly has only until April 15 to do so.

Robert Jacobson wrote to the Post on behalf of BH&L Group Core Team, saying it had petitioned the US committee to 'open the process to a coalition of all the teams' and offered 'a new and better ... pavilion concept that costs less, does more and can be built in a scant six months'.

BH&L, which lost out in its bid to be the organising committee, has engaged Ralph Miller, an executive producer with experience in similar projects, to form a coalition.

'I am trying to bring all the involved parties around the table,' Mr Miller said. 'This really is the 11th hour.'

He estimated the organisers had so far guaranteed a maximum of US$10 million in donations, and there was concern that the target budget should be scaled back to meet the current economic climate.

It is generally accepted that US law states organisers can only use private dollars to fund the expo pavilion. However, Mr Miller said his interpretation of the laws was that they were less restrictive, and he believed it could be possible for public funds to be used.

'I believe we need a combination of public and private funding,' he said.

Frank Lavin, the steering committee chairman for the USA Pavilion, said fund-raising and planning were 'very much on track', the US State Department was on board, and the USA Pavilion organisation was open, inclusive and glad 'to answer any questions on group mechanics and decision-making'.

An active member of the Shanghai American expatriate community who asked not to be named, said residents wanted to be more involved.

She said the organisers had rarely visited Shanghai since they won the contract in 2007 and only recently employed a 'terrific' locally based representative.