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Over 21 million have visited Milan Expo

Six months after a highly-anticipated inauguration, the food-themed Milan Expo 2015 world’s fair is wrapping up on Saturday.

The event, which opened on May 1 under the banner ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, has attracted a record 21 million visitors, well above the 20-million goal originally set by organizers.

The number included six to seven million foreigners, approximately one-third of the total, who travelled to Italy’s financial capital for the Universal Exposition, which focused on fighting world hunger, promoting food security and sustainable agriculture while celebrating worldwide culinary cultures.

Visitors have been steadily growing since the summer, organizers said.

The total number of entrances in August alone was three million.

Meanwhile September and October registered new peaks with 259,093 visitors on September 26 and a landmark 272,785 on October 10, the highest one-day total since Expo opened.

The week running from October 5 through October 11 also attracted a record 1.243,701 in seven days.

“Milan and Italy are at the heart of all this, along with a new organizational system” combining public and private institutions, the world’s fair sole commissioner and CEO Giuseppe Sala said on Thursday. And Expo’s success was first and foremost “a success of the people”, said Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina.

“The turning point was in people’s feelings, which this experience was able to generate”.

According to a preliminary survey on the event drafted by farmers’ association Coldiretti, Italians spent a total of 2.3 billion euros at Expo and for Expo in expenses including travelling, accommodation, tickets and food.

Over 140 countries officially participated in the event, together with international organizations including the European Union and the United Nations.

A record 54 single-nation pavilions were built at the massive Rho Pero location hosting Expo, 12 more than Shanghai at the last Universal Exposition in 2010.

In addition, nine “cluster” pavilions represented over 70 countries in a totally new concept grouping them through a common category of food.

Categories included rice, cocoa and chocolate, coffee, fruits and legumes, spices, cereals and tubers, as well as the Bio-Mediterranean, island and dry areas.

The world’s fair has been visited by 60 heads of state and government, including British Premier David Cameron, French President Francois Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy.

Institutional visits were over 300, organizers said.

Celebrities who had an active role in the event included designer Giorgio Armani, a special fashion ambassador for Expo who opened the fair with an exclusive fashion show of his Privé couture line on the evening of April 30.

Also, Bono Vox, an activist and lead singer for Dublin-based rock group U2, on September 6 joined Premier Matteo Renzi and the director of the World Food Program, Ertharin Cousin, for an event co-hosted by Ireland and Italy focusing on world hunger.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited on October 16, the United Nations World Food Day.

Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina gave Ban Ki-moon the Milan Charter, the crowning moment of the six-month event. The Charter, a global food practices initiative framed at the world’s fair and considered its legacy, has been signed by 1.1 million people including institutions, governments and citizens. It was drafted to commit individuals, associations and companies that sign it to take responsibility through their actions and policies, while requesting governments and international institutions to implement rules and policies that ensure a fairer and more sustainable future across continents.

And in a first in the history of Universal Expositions, the African continent was represented by 39 countries – about one-third of participants.

African countries with their own pavilion included Angola, Morocco and Sudan while 36 others were represented in the clusters.

Over the course of six months, hundreds of school trips were also organized from all over Italy.

A total of two million students visited Expo with educational programs tailored for them on agriculture and agri-food as well as on the fight against world hunger and food waste.

“I think that, without exaggerating, we can talk about an Expo generation”, Sala said this week..

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