The World Expo 2022 is a unique opportunity for Łódź. A former industrial hub, stands a chance of becoming a world famous centre of science and culture, worthy of the name of “city of the new century”
Poland has engaged in efforts to host the Expo 2022 in Łódź. This is a great opportunity not only for Łódź, but for entire Poland and the region of Central and Eastern Europe. So far, the world exhibitions, now known as Expos, took place mainly in Western Europe, USA and Asia. The first big exhibition considered to be of worldwide scope took place in 1851 in London. Apart from London, most frequently chosen locations included Paris, Brussels and Milan.
Two world wars, 45 years of communism and the economic gap between Europe’s East and West meant that the organisers of world exhibitions treated the post-communist countries from behind the Iron Curtain, including Poland, with reserve, keeping them at bay. And now there is a chance that the Expo 2022 be organised in Poland, in Łódź. Due to its geographical situation at the crossroads of East and West, Poland would fall prey to dramatic events: wars, invasions and occupations.
Today, when Europe enjoys peace, Poland’s geographical situation is its great asset when it comes to organisation of international events.
.Poland lies in the very heart of Europe, on the route between the East and the West. Poland’s statehood dates back to its Baptism in 966. 1,050 years ago, under the rule of Prince Mieszko I, Poland joined the community of European nations, becoming part of Western civilisation and culture, integrated by Christianity. The following centuries marked the rise of the Kingdom of the Piasts and then the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under the Jagiellonian dynasty, a multicultural country of religious tolerance. The personal union with Lithuania (1385) is an example of peaceful coexistence between the two nations under the rule of one monarch many years before the rise of the European Union.
Poland has always been a country that guaranteed safety for all citizens regardless of their origin and religion. When religious wars ravaged Europe, Poland was “a country without stakes” and a model of tolerance. Many of the systemic solutions developed under the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth became standards in modern democracy. The World War II and 45 years of communist totalitarianism was a time of ordeal. But, even against this, Polish people came out victorious.
It is in Poland that “Solidarity”, the world’s biggest, 10-million strong, grass-roots social movement. “Solidarity” was a driving force for a democratic change throughout Central and Eastern Europe. After 1989, Poland was an example for other countries in the region. After the fall of communism, Poland had to overcome many social problems and build a modern market economy. This process continues today. Poland belongs to the European Union and cooperates regionally and internationally. These measures are consistent with the idea of Expo.
Poland – a reliable partner and skilful organiser
.In the past years, Poland hosted a couple of important events of worldwide concern and passed this difficult exam. In 2012, we co-hosted with Ukraine the European Football Championship. In the summer of 2016, 2.5 million pilgrims from around the world flocked to Poland to meet with Pope Francis during the World Youth Days. A huge organisational and logistic undertaking was successful.
Although there were numerous acts of terror at that time in Europe, participants of the World Youth Days were provided full security. The year 2016 also brought another organisational success: Wrocław became the European Capital of Culture. Poland has repeatedly proved to be a strong and reliable partner in organisation of global events. Able to provide seasoned and professional staff as well as a high level of security, it meets logistical challenges and high expectations of the International Exhibitions Bureau. Professionalism is one asset, but no big event could possibly be organised in Poland without people’s enthusiasm and passion.
An opportunity for the city and region
.Why has Łódź, and not some other Polish city, been put forward to host Expo 2022? For years, it was a major textile hub. After 1989, many factories collapsed. A post-industrial Łódź degenerated into a city with a crumbling urban fabric and poor infrastructure. It was seen as little attractive for tourists and with no prospects for residents.
Łódź and its 700,000 inhabitants have high hopes for the World Exhibition Expo 2022. Revitalisation of the city moves on, earning it a new face and a name of the city of the new century.
Under the banner of “City: Reinvented” Łódź is undergoing modernisation, while retaining all its historical assets and magnificent cultural heritage. Łódź has the advantage of being situated in the very centre of Poland, close to the key transportation corridors: east-west and north-south. New infrastructure, including transportation network, is under construction. A civilian airport is already there; high-speed railways and a tunnel connecting train stations Kaliska and Fabryczna is work in progress. Thanks to the road node S14, Łódź will be the first major Polish city with a complete beltway.
Renovation is under way of historic buildings in the city centre and in neglected districts. It is no exaggeration in saying that Łódź is a city invented from scratch. This is another asset and a point of convergence with the idea of Expo.
Expo means development
.All cities that hosted world exhibitions in the past made substantial investment in development and renovation of infrastructure. The post-Expo facilities attract tourists long afterwards.
When Brussels was preparing to host the Expo 1958, the legendary Atomium – a model of an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times – was built in the suburban district of Laeken. A monumental symbol of technological achievements, the Atomium is now the hallmark of the Belgian capital, and Laeken itself became famous around the world. The key attraction of Expo 1975 in Okinawa, Japan, was the 101-hectare floating city of Aquapolis, a magnet for millions of visitors. Five years after the Expo 1992 in Seville, Spain, the post-expo areas were adapted into the Isla Mágica (Magic Island), a recreation park which is still open.
Investments in Łódź will serve its residents and tourists long after the Expo 2022.
A city with a new face
.Revitalisation of Łódź before the world exhibition has also a very positive social dimension, for it creates new opportunities for inhabitants: jobs and pride of being a host city of an event that captivates the attention of the whole world. The evolution and expansion of the post-industrial municipalities, such as Manchester (United Kingdom), Detroit or Pittsburgh (USA) shows that Łódź, too, has prospects for further development.
Revitalisation of more than 20 percent of the existing infrastructure plus further investments mark an important step in the dynamic development of Łódź.
.The city is a model example of an effective concerted action beyond political divisions, since its candidacy is supported by all major political forces, which are normally far from agreement.
The Expo 2022 will certainly increase the international recognition of Łódź. An enhanced image will, in turn, translate into the influx of FDI, giving a boost to the region’s economy. Residents will feel its positive effect on employment.
With the Expo 2022, Łódź will grow into a major European high-tech hub and an open-minded culture and science centre. For a few million visitors, the Expo 2022 in Łódź will be a harmonious combination of the city’s historical heritage and accomplishments of many generations with a vision of a city worthy of the 21st century. Owing to its favourable geographical situation and an extensive transportation network, Łódź will become a new tourist attraction, next to Warsaw or Kraków, for visitors from all over Europe and the world.
Brief, the Expo 2022 affords a great and unique opportunity for Łódź, but also for Poland, its neighbours and the whole CEE region.