Photo: 'Nur Alem,' the world's largest spherical building, known as 'the Sphere.' Credit: EXPO 2017 - Photo: 2017

‘EXPO 2017 Astana’ Ends, Leaving Behind Inspiring Legacies

By Ramesh Jaura

BERLIN | ASTANA (IDN) – Kazakhstan’s “biggest and probably most ambitious event” EXPO 2017, which concluded in the capital city on September 10 after three months, is leaving behind some far-reaching legacies.

One of the legacies is ‘Nur Alem,’ the world’s largest spherical building with the diameter of 80 and height of 100 meters. It is the world’s first ‘complete sphere’ building and hence called the Sphere. Integration of photovoltaic elements into the façade allows conversion of sunlight energy into electric one. Two wind generators are also provided for at the upper part of the sphere. Watch Our Video for an interview with Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko on the legacies of EXPO 2017 Astana

The Adrian Smith and Gordon Gill-designed EXPO site around the Sphere spans 25 hectares, creating a brand new district of Kazakhstan’s capital city. The first floor of the building hosts the Pavilion of Kazakhstan where visitors will continue to have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the history, culture, traditions, places of interest and also recent achievements of Kazakhstan.

In the Sphere itself, the Museum of Future is located. In fact more than just a museum, ‘Nur Alem’ is being turned into an innovation hub of the sort and important research and culture centre. Digital, multimedia and interactive technologies will enable enhancement of perception of the display area at the second through eighth floors of the Museum of Future, where the basic types of energy are demonstrated: those of the space, sun, biomass, wind, water, and kinetics.

In fact in the three months since June 10, EXPO 2017 demonstrated the ways to access affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all, which is the seventh of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to transform our world by 2030, by way of ending “poverty in all its forms” as envisaged in Goal One.

This specialized international exhibition – Central Asia’s first of its kind – with focus on ‘Future Energy,’ drew some 3.8 million visitors, nearly twice as many as the two million anticipated – not only from Kazakhstan, but also from Russia, China, and some European countries.

115 countries and 22 international organizations, including some UN agencies, participated in EXPO 2017, offering visitors a global picture of the challenges and opportunities posed by the ‘Future Energy’ theme through educational, entertaining and futuristic pavilions. Dozens of cultural events each day proved just as popular as the thematic and international pavilions.

Marked by a spectacular light and sound show as well as energy-themed performances, the closing ceremony was the last of over 3,000 cultural and thematic events held throughout the 93 days of this specialized international Exhibition.

“The Expo has been a success. This is one of Kazakhstan’s most brilliant achievements since its independence,” declared President Nursultan Nazarbayev during the closing ceremony, which was attended by 15 heads of State and government, who participated as guests of honour and an audience of 2,200, comprising national commissioners, the BIE (International Exposition Bureau) officials, EXPO staff and volunteers.

The BIE is the intergovernmental organisation in charge of overseeing and regulating World Expos, since 1931.

According to President Nazarbayev, the EXPO served as a stimulus for local scientific projects. Nearly 140 scientific inventions in the field of renewable energy received international exposure.

“More than 1,400 small and medium-sized enterprises received orders for services and goods for $1.9 billion, while tens of thousands of people got new jobs with worthy wages. The tourism sector of Kazakhstan saw revitalization. The demand for tour operators’ services almost doubled during the three months,” reported the Astana Times quoting President Nazarbayev.

The BIE Secretary-General, Vicente G. Loscertales, declared in a video address at the closing ceremony: “EXPO 2017 Astana has united the world on its site and has inspired the international community, international participants, the private sector and civil society to renew their commitment to a sustainable future.” He expressed his gratitude to the Kazakh President as well as to the organizers, participants, and volunteers for making the Expo such a success.

According to the BIE, gathering policymakers, experts, and business leaders through an array of events and meetings, the EXPO has been a hub of discussion enabling global players to discuss the state of energy today and to shape the agenda for the future.

The Future Energy Forum, a series of 12 conferences, was held within the framework of the EXPO, resulting in the ‘Manifesto of Principles and Values’, a blueprint with lasting guidelines for a global energy transition.

Highlights among pavilions included some commercial ones such as the Shell pavilion, and the ‘Energy Best Practices Area,’ which hosted 25 companies selected by an international jury – which included Nobel Prize laureates in Physics. They chose the best 25 innovations in modern technologies in how to use alternative energy sources.

“I think the most important thing about EXPO is that it has fulfilled its mission of serving as the platform for exchange of ideas – exchange of technologies, exchange of best practices – in the energy sphere, with all the countries of the world,” Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister Roman Vassilenko told IDN.

“For example, we hosted many so-called Least Developed Countries (LDCs) – from Africa, from the Pacific, who were sponsored by Kazakhstan to showcase whatever they have and learn from others – thus creating a platform for energy-based ideas,” he added. “So EXPO has indeed become the event of the year. Certainly for Kazakhstan and our part of the world. And I think for the energy industry as well.”

While the Nur Alem Sphere will continue to be a popular attraction with its Museum of Future Energy, three ‘legacy projects’ would be established on the premises of EXPO 2017, Vassilenko told IDN. The rest of the site will host business and research activities.

One of these is the Astana International Financial Centre (AIFC), a financial hub for Central Asia, the Caucasus, EAEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the Middle East, West China, Mongolia and Europe. It operates within a special legal regime based on Common Law, which regulates the legal relationships between AIFC participants and third parties and is aimed at the development of the financial market.

The second ‘legacy project’ is more relevant for the Future Energy focus of EXPO, the ‘International Centre for the Transfer of Green Technologies and Investment Projects.’ It is being established with the support of the United Nations agencies such as the UNEP (UN Environment).

This aims at helping Kazakhstan make a mark in the Green Energy sector. The Kazakh economy presently is rather ‘brown.’ Only 1% of the country’s energy comes from renewable sources – the rest from oil and diesel. But hydropower and solar power stations are under construction. The plan is to cover 50 percent of the country’s energy needs from alternative sources by 2050.

Also, there are plans to build nuclear power plants. Kazakhstan is the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural uranium. “We used to have nuclear power plants in the Soviet times; these were de-commissioned. But we have the resources and the will and the power to develop nuclear power stations,” said a Kazakh official.

The third ‘legacy project’ is the global IT start-up hub. It will be like a miniature Silicon Valley offering favourable conditions for IT specialists to establish start-ups.

Before EXPO 2017 closed with fireworks, the International Exposition Bureau awarded 24 gold, silver and bronze medals of honour, certificates, and prizes to participants and pavilions in several categories. The Gold Medal – BIE’s highest award – was given to President Nazarbayev for his contribution and success in hosting the exhibition. A second gold was awarded to international participants for their spirit and support.

Medals of honour were presented to the Astana EXPO 2017 national company for its dedication and high professionalism, the capital’s authorities and citizens and EXPO commissioner Rapil Zhoshybayev for attracting such a large number of participants.

Certificates of merit were given to all expo volunteers for being the backbone of the exhibition and the expo’s communications service for covering the event in the media.

BIE announced an additional award and $24,000 cash prize to the National University of Lesotho “for its initiative to design and produce low-cost solar collectors.” Jointly awarded by the BIE, the Expo ’90 Foundation and the EXPO 2017 this year’s edition of the BIE Cosmos Prize was open to not-for-profit projects and citizen and group initiatives working in the area of ‘Future Energy,’ the theme of the exhibition in Astana.

Russia received the gold award for exhibition design among type A pavilions (more than 700 square metres). The silver award went to the United Kingdom, the bronze to the Republic of Korea. For theme development, the gold award was presented to Germany, with China and France receiving the silver and bronze, respectively.

Among type B pavilions (400-700 square metres), Qatar was granted the gold award for exhibition design, with Azerbaijan receiving the silver and Monaco the bronze. For theme development, the gold award in the category was given to Switzerland, with Hungary receiving silver and India the bronze.

For type C pavilions (less than 400 square metres), the gold award for exhibition design was granted to Poland, with silver going to Slovakia and bronze to Latvia. Finland received the gold award, Singapore the silver and the Czech Republic the bronze in theme development.

Among category D pavilions (joint pavilions within the plazas), the Caribbean Community plaza received the gold award for exhibition design, with the Pacific Ocean plaza taking the silver and the Latin American plaza the bronze. The theme development awards were given to Tajikistan (gold), Ghana (silver) and Ukraine (bronze). Honourable mention went to the International spec’ joint pavilion.

These are some of the reasons that, as Kazakh Deputy Foreign Minister said: “EXPO’s legacy will live beyond September 10.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 12 September 2017]

Photo: ‘Nur Alem,’ the world’s largest spherical building, known as ‘the Sphere.’ Credit: EXPO 2017

IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate. –

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