Sweden Plans to Bring Expo to Internet

By TOMMY GRANDELL, Associated Press Writer

There won't be any cotton candy, but most other treats of a world fair would be available in an Internet version of the global exposition being prepared in Sweden.

The Swedish government and the organization responsible for running the World Expo want to attract younger people and others without the means to travel across the globe to visit a fair, officials said Friday. They hope to have it up and running in three years.

"With an Internet World Expo, it might be possible to reach target groups that are not interested in world expositions designed the way they are today," said project leader Staffan Bjorck at the Swedish Foreign Ministry.

The Paris-based Bureau International des Expositions, or BIE, the governing body of international expos, has pledged euro200,000 to get the project started, and the Swedish government is expected to do the same, Bjorck said.

Organizers envision virtual pavilions from more than 100 countries, but it is not yet known if USA will participate.

"The site will be an encyclopedia of different countries, their cultures, traditions and music," said Bjorck, who is also vice president of BIE. "Imagination is the only limit to the country presentations."

Each member's contribution would be vetted by the BIE, in the same manner that physical pavilions are approved by the body.

Major World Expos are typically arranged every fifth year and run for half a year. Some 22 million people visited the Expo 2005 in Aichi, Japan, which ended its six-month run in September. The next World Expo will be held in Shanghai, China, in 2010, with an estimated 70 million visitors.

The Internet World Expo would complement the physical fair, but would run continuously and be updated with new themes. National pavilions would be based on their physical counterparts, but the virtual exhibition would also feature music, games, e-learning, an exposhop and opportunities for dialogue and chat.

"It will open the doors of an exhibition to everybody worldwide, even if it is not possible to say now how many people would 'visit' this Expo," the BIE's Information and Communication Committee said in a Nov. 15 document approving the project.

Organizers hope that more than 40 million people worldwide will visit the site daily, with the target group being people ages 15-24.

"However, the exhibition will of course be open to everyone, and will no doubt attract a considerably broader group," Bjorck said.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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